The World Day of Social Justice was marked on Saturday with the theme “A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy”, which was informed by the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The technologically inspired remote working arrangements in this period have allowed for the continuation of many business activities online, further reinforcing the growth and impact of the digital economy.
But the crisis has also laid bare and exacerbated the growing digital divide within, between and across countries and among people of different ages. This has heightened the risk of socioeconomic exclusion of the older people.
For years, the pendulum of digital advancement has swung predominantly away from the goals of social justice for the elderly. The Constitution is explicit on public participation and engagement in policy formulation and implementation, leading to the “nothing for us without us” mantra by social groups.
But since the onset of Covid-19, availability, affordability and use of information communication and technology (ICT) has posed serious challenges to the elderly, who are sidelined in the relentless advancement of technology as the preferred way to engage socially, economically and politically.
Digital labour platforms have ensured the much-needed continuation of economic activities in the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and provided benefits from flexible work arrangements. Yet, they have not been without challenges.
Changing structures in family economic activities and the restrictions in movement mean that older adults are often left with limited support. Consequently, these changes have negatively affected the human rights of the older persons who suffer psychological, social, and economic violations.
Participation of older people in economies and policy reviews has been negligible or non-existent. Altogether, the compounding unintentional, and inter-generational biases helps to create a system of injustice that does not favour the older persons.
By focusing on needs rather than rights, the human dignity, security and autonomy of the elderly can be easily ignored. This is worsened by the limited or non-availability of initiatives to mainstream their participation in the digital economy.
The pandemic has also exposed the Kenya digital economy blueprint, whose mission is to have a nation where every citizen, enterprise and organisation has digital access and the capability to participate and thrive in the digital economy.
With the increasing population of older people, it’s only prudent and strategic to include them in the transformative technologies. It’s also important to address the injustices that have gone unrecognised due to incorrect and ill-informed assumptions and prejudices that manifest through ageism.
While ageing is natural, the response to it must be non-discriminatory to ensure inclusion of the elderly in technological advancement.