About 10%-12% of the Philippines’ population — roughly 10 million people — migrates overseas for employment, often leaving family back home. This migration pattern strains family relations and can leave overseas workers without support when navigating the difficulties of life abroad. Technology provides the potential to reconnect families — but this potential goes unrealized when older family members back home can’t use simple online tools. Without the resources or means to learn digital skills, there’s often nowhere to turn for parents of those who’ve left home for work.
Throughout the Philippines, community libraries are now tackling this need by offering free digital skills training for senior citizens — a service that’s not otherwise available in many communities. About 20 kilometers south of Manila, Imus City Library offers a new program for seniors. Through the program, more than 80 seniors have learned new digital skills that are targeted to their needs and interests — such as internet browsing, social media use, and email platforms — with powerful results.
One participant, Maria Marcelo, learned how to use Facebook to communicate with her daughters — each of whom live in a different country. With children in Australia, Malaysia, and Hong Kong, Maria is only now able to sustain regular communications with her family. Edith Maraybles learned how to use instant messaging tools to connect with her husband, an employee on an Asian cruise line.
The program’s impact extends beyond new digital skills. Digital literacy training is also transforming senior citizens’ perceptions of the information society, and of their place in it.“Now program participants say they are aging, but they are not left behind,” said Rose Roman, a librarian at Imus City Library.
Imus City Library staff started the training program following the library’s partnership with the Beyond Access program.