Bridging the digital divide to empower a generation
Author: Eveline Pupeter, CEO, emporia Telecom
February 4, 2022
My mandate is simple: we must take older people with us into the digital future. I think it’s a mission that we have a responsibility to fulfill as a society. What may seem theoretical at first glance has a practical background. Consider how we take for granted many daily tasks that now require the use of a smartphone, such as ticketing, banking, and retail shopping. We now live in a world that is difficult to navigate without a smartphone and as the Internet of Things (IoT) grows, the adoption of smart technology will continue to grow exponentially in all scenarios, increasingly excluding those who do not use these devices.
Even more impacted by confinements
Across Europe, more than 50 million people over the age of 65 are excluded from this new form of permanent communication, and it is our socio-political responsibility to bridge this growing digital divide between young and old. The impact of the lockdown on this demographic further demonstrates the need for us to do so. As countries across Europe descended into chaos due to the pandemic, older people felt isolated and disconnected. Without the right technology and the right know-how, simple things that are ingrained in the daily lives of younger generations – like video calling – were not accessible to this important group. The lack of smart technology also meant that when in-person contact was out of the question, shopping for groceries online and ordering prescriptions was not an option for much of this age group. It was a real tragedy.
From my past experience and my journey at emporia, I have developed a formula for success. The first step to ensuring continued success is to regularly question your company, its products and its services. This is the only way to be certain that you are serving the end user to the highest standards. My second driver is to set clear goals and stick to them. This prevents me from losing the thread of my mission. I’ve also found it’s so important to be brave and believe in yourself and your business. For example, before the COVID-19 crisis, I said that we would have a turnover of 100 M€ in 2023. I also repeated it during the crisis. And now, as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, I cling to that goal. My final step is to define and work on a set of core company values. I lead emporia according to three key principles that I believe are essential to success: respect, discipline and competence.
Know your market
With this in mind, I am committed to continually improving our products in ways that contribute to my mission to bridge the digital divide. We are committed to research and have numerous collaborations with universities and international academic institutions, including the University of Cambridge. We also invest heavily in consumer research and local market behavior in all areas in which we operate. This allows us to better understand the ever-changing wants and needs of our target audience and identify the issues we need to address.
It is our socio-political responsibility to bridge this growing digital gap between young and old
In addition to creating the most suitable products for older users, the emporia strategy also includes training and support. For five years, we have been developing training methods such as our training booklets, included with each product, and the smartphone driving license to introduce seniors to new technologies. Before the pandemic, 1,000 training courses were delivered in a single day in Germany by emporia and our business partners. It’s incredible ? We are also working with several major banks across Europe to share best practices in training this audience to embrace digital channels such as banking apps.
I feel like I hold my place in an industry largely dominated by men. There are few female CEOs and business leaders, especially in telecommunications. However, in Europe, I am in good company with two extraordinary women: Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, who is the political head of more than 447 million European citizens, and Christine Lagarde, Director of the ECB, which is responsible for a balance sheet volume of 569 billion euros.
The world’s population continues to grow and age. This means that by 2051, approximately 10 billion people will inhabit this planet, of which more than two billion will be over 60 years old. I believe that communications technology will take a leap forward, and it is possible that smartphones will no longer exist, with our transactions and dialogues carried out via portable devices or other similar gadgets. No one can predict the future, but at emporia we believe we can bridge the generational digital divide. And I believe we will. My motto for life and business is: “failure is not an option”.