Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC): They ask the Minister of Transport and Telecommunications to include the elderly in the “Zero Digital Gap Plan”

The rector of the UC Ignacio Sánchez; the executive director of the Conecta Mayor UC Foundation , Eduardo Toro; Together with Sofía Troncoso and Carolina Goic, social director and public policy advisor of the foundation, respectively, they met this Thursday with the Minister of Transport and Telecommunications, Juan Carlos Muñoz and part of his team, to talk about the “Digital Gap Plan Zero”, announced by the portfolio and raise the need to put older people at the center and move towards a national policy that considers the digital inclusion of older people.

To bridge the gap, a public-private effort is required to promote the inclusion of the least digitized older people —close to 2 million Chileans— through specific and robust teaching and practice mechanisms.


With a society that constantly evolves in new platforms and spaces for participation, it is necessary for Chile to promote the development of skills of those who are not digital natives, implementing universal training methodologies in digital skills and education in the use of new technologies. To bridge the gap, a public-private effort is required to promote the inclusion of the least digitized older people —close to 2 million Chileans— through specific and robust teaching and practice mechanisms.

“It has been an interesting meeting that really puts us on a path of dialogue with the government on the issue of older adults. We explained to him the 30 years of knowledge and work we have on the subject. The minister appreciated our work and promised to help us. With the same objective a few weeks ago we were with the Minister of Social Development and Family and I think this is the best way to show our institution’s willingness to work collaboratively and publicly”, said the rector Ignacio Sánchez.

“We explained to him the 30 years of knowledge and work we have on the subject. The minister valued our work and promised to help us. With the same objective a few weeks ago we were with the Minister of Social Development and Family and I think this is the best way to show our institution’s desire for public and collaborative work”- Ignacio Sánchez, rector

“The pandemic showed us children and young people on top of the roof of their houses to be able to study, looking for a signal to connect. This brutal reality suddenly showed us that we have a significant debt. A long time ago connectivity ceased to be a luxury good or an entertainment tool. A good connection improves the quality of life of those who have it. It allows people who live in rural areas to be treated, for example, through telemedicine and, with that, receive medical assistance that they would not have in person. Also, it brings us closer. It allows us to see our relatives, loved ones by video call, it allows us to shorten the physical distance that has become so latent and so hard, especially in the last two years, ”explained Minister Juan Carlos Muñoz.

“Connectivity ceased to be a luxury good or an entertainment tool a long time ago. A good connection improves the quality of life of those who have it. It allows people who live in rural areas to be served, for example, through telemedicine and, with that, receive medical assistance that they would not have in person” – Juan Carlos Muñoz, Minister

“The pandemic deepened inequalities in access to information technologies in Chilean society, with an unquestionable age and economic bias. However, our experience with almost 80,000 elderly people with limited resources to whom we provide specially adapted phones —61% of them had never had a touch device— shows us that the mere provision of equipment and connectivity does not reduce the gap. At the same time we must train and demonstrate the urgency of digital integration. As Conecta Mayor UC we make ourselves available to contribute to public policy from our work experience in the digital inclusion of older people”, explained Eduardo Toro.

The work plan proposed by the rector Ignacio Sánchez and Conecta Mayor UC proposes to collaboratively promote two axes of the Chile Digital Strategy 2035: on the one hand, the development of digital skills, through the promotion of a universal digital training plan for people greater; and, on the other, referred to the digitization of the State, promoting and bringing the digitized public apparatus closer to the elderly through friendlier technologies.

After guaranteeing free access to smartphones and connectivity to almost 80,000 older people throughout the country, Conecta Mayor UC raises the urgency of creating a national digital inclusion policy for older people that considers, among other aspects, the development of universal digital skills training methodologies for older people; access to education and training in the use of new technologies; approach of the State to the elderly through technology (friendly applications); and promotion of social and community inclusion through digital inclusion.

Conecta Mayor UC, a foundation of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, emerged during the pandemic with the commitment to support and accompany the elderly in our country in digital inclusion, especially those who are in a situation of vulnerability.

Thanks to the support of SENAMA, and to the work with 336 municipalities, Conecta Mayor UC already has almost 80,000 older people throughout Chile connected through a telephone specially adapted for them, with a free data plan and a service of telephone accompaniment that seeks to counteract the loneliness and isolation that a very significant part of older adults in Chile declares. Close to 61% of Conecta Mayor users had never had a smartphone.
Today about 90% of Conecta Mayor UC beneficiaries make and receive calls: 70% make them through WhatsApp, which allows them to communicate with relatives outside of Chile and make video calls (40% of beneficiaries). But one of the most significant impacts has been that 90% declare that, since they have the phone, they feel more accompanied. A similar percentage also declares that they feel more secure.

The study of Quality of Life in Old Age (PUC, 2021), shows us that the level of satisfaction with life is higher among older people who have and use a smartphone. The integration of technology can change the level of satisfaction with life for the better. The same study reviews the activities carried out by older people with or without a smartphone. What we do know is that practically everyone who has a telephone uses it to receive calls. The cell phone has also served to connect local communities; there are neighborhood groups, WhatsApp groups of older people that did not exist before.

In addition to the social integration of the elderly, Conecta Mayor UC has as its flag the visibility of aging and the contribution that this group makes to society, breaking down myths and prejudices and inviting citizens to a more optimistic view of old age.

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