Introducing the DigiSeniors Program

| Kevin Wei, MSFT Chicago Civic Tech Fellow


When you first think of the “digital divide” of access and essential skills, we typically first focus on Youth, vs. the population of senior citizens. However, one of our core commitments at Microsoft is to ensure that EVERYONE is connected skillfully and safely. And the statistics around senior citizens’ vulnerability to online scams is frightening:

  • With accumulated wealth and “nest eggs”, senior citizens are an attractive target for fraud, especially online abuse

PewInternet SeniorTechUseThese facts come as no surprise to some of us, especially the City of Chicago, where there are many digital literacy and digital access efforts across the city. As Julia Stasch of the MacArthur Foundation had said, “If the city doesn’t work for everybody, it isn’t working.” As the result of conversations between Danielle DuMerer, First Deputy Commissioner & CTO of the City of Chicago and Shelley Stern Grach, Director of Civic Engagement, Microsoft, they identified a strong need for resources for  senior citizen to get safely connected online. (Check out Shelley’s blog about her own family and their relationships with technology!)

DigiSeniors History

It’s incredible to see what we can achieve when take the ego out and focus on the mission at hand; civic tech works better when we collaborate. The Microsoft Chicago Civic Engagement and Retail Store teams have been hard at work with the leading individuals and agencies of the City of Chicago to develop a curriculum to help senior citizens get the basic digital skills, access, and safety knowledge that they need to keep up with the ever-evolving technology world. Partnerships include collaboration with the Chicago Public Library, DFSS, CHA, Department of Information Technology, Connect Chicago and other nonprofits.  After nearly a year’s worth of development, feedback, pilot sessions, Microsoft Chicago is happy to announce the launch of the DigiSeniors curriculum!

We recently launched our DigiSeniors curriculum during the July Connect Chicago Meetup, a community affiliated with the SmartChicago Collaborative, a civic organization supported by the City of Chicago, MacArthur Foundation, and many other players devoted to improving lives in Chicago through technology. ConnectChicago is a premier civic tech organization whose model has led to many successes in bridging the digital divide here in Chicago. The DigiSeniors curriculum will be hosted on their website LINK here, as the central hub for Chicago digital skills access.

Here are a few core aspects of DigiSeniors curriculum that stand out:

  • Integrated with best practices for senior citizens: interactive portions, large text, high contrast backgrounds, slow pace, and inspiring friendly environments!
  • 3 modules: Intro to Windows, Accessibility & Safety/Security
  • Free, fully editable curriculum for anyone to use and teach their own sessions!
  • Check out the full story on this Microsoft Sway (Microsoft’s new interactive presentation style!)

Our hope is that we can continue developing our curriculum with new additions and partnerships in future phases. The work of increasing digital skills and access in Chicago is a never-ending story, but the truth of the matter is that we are making real progress with efforts like these.

Are you a computer trainer, a teacher, a librarian, or a resident who wants to help close the technology gap in Chicago’s senior population? Sign up for a free “Train the Trainer” session here, which are sessions for agencies and community leaders to get fully acquainted with all 3 modules of the DigiSeniors curriculum. They will be led by a representative from Microsoft Civic Tech Engagement or the Microsoft Retail Store. After the train-the-trainer sessions, attendees will be fully prepared to lead their own classes and trainings for seniors.

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