Digital literacy at any age

​Over the past decade, the Netanya Municipality has been operating in congruence with the city's vision, built on visualizing the future

​Over the past decade, the Netanya Municipality has been operating in congruence with the city's vision, built on visualizing the future regarding everything to do with both the changes in consumer habits and also the residents' involvement and technological developments which can upgrade the level and accessibility of services. This vision is translated into a perception of providing services which strive to expand the digitization of the municipal services, while emphasizing that the operations and tools are intended to serve the resident, and not vice versa. Within the framework of this perception, it was decided to develop services from an individual view, meaning adapting them individually to the characteristics and needs of the resident, and a communal view based on two main characteristics:

  1. Geographic data – area of residence, with emphasis on segmentation according to neighborhoods. Since most neighborhoods have different characteristics and therefore, also, differing needs.

  2. Demographic data – unique characteristics or unique requirements which create a common denominator and shared needs such as cross-sections related to age, unique communities such as new immigrants, chareidim, or children's ages. 

In addition to the Netanya Digital Center, the following services were also developed:

  • Examining regional needs, so as to improve services such as cleanliness of the city, education, and public facilities.

  • A unique new immigrant integration process, helping them with what they need to do with the relevant municipality divisions, so as to utilize their rights to the fullest.

  • A unique integration process for new residents coming to live in Netanya for the first time, helping them with the moving process and settling in the neighborhood where they chose to live. 

One of the major challenges when expanding the digital services is the risk of excluding populations with low digital literacy, such as senior citizens and new immigrants. Netanya's population includes approximately 5% of the population aged 60-64 and 20% aged 60+. Likewise, as a city which absorbs immigration, as of April 2023 Netanya's population included approximately 90,000 new immigrants from the FSU, approximately 20,000 from Ethiopia, and approximately 10,000 from France. As part of the process to integrate innovative technologies and move services to digital, customer journeys were held to examine the effects of the innovative processes on the abilities of all city residents to use these services. One of the insights which arose refers to the senior citizens' and new immigrants' difficulty in using, and lack of accessibility to, the technology. In 2019, to bridge between the need to expand digital services with that of ensuring that all the city's residents would be able to make use of these services without discrimination, the Netanya Digital Center was founded, teaching over 20 courses in various fields of computer use in accordance with the needs of the participants – free of charge, to all city residents, aged 8 to 100. 

In establishing the Center, the Netanya Municipality sought to achieve two principal goals:

  1. To make the required knowledge and tools for acquiring digital literacy, from basic to advanced levels, available to every Netanya resident.

  2. Empowering, strengthening, and developing independence for populations with low digital literacy with tools that would enable them to integrate into the public digital setting, without being dependent on a third party.

  3. Helping the residents break free of the unemployment circle, by providing tools for finding work in professions with potential for significant income.

  4. Increasing accessibility to government services, public services, and online databases, with guidance, help, and encouragement.

The Center is a partnership of the Netanya Municipality, the Dora Community Center, and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space. The idea of establishing the Netanya Digital Center began to take shape with a call for action by the Ministry of Science and Technology, which offered financial support to local authorities which would create a Digital Center for the benefit of their residents. At the same time, the Municipality chose to firstly adapt the center's activity to senior citizens and disadvantaged populations in the city, so as to empower them.

The Netanya Municipality chose to be aided by the municipal network of community centers by means of the Dora Community Center as the executing body, due to their broad experience in planning, coordination, marketing, and operation of activities and guidance to a wide variety of ages in the city. It should be noted that the Dora neighborhood is a veteran one, with a widely heterogeneous population, including some with low digital literacy for theological reasons, and new immigrants. The Netanya Municipality and the Ministry of Science and Technology fund the activities so that the city's residents can enjoy trainings free of charge, so that the payment issue will not serve as an obstacle for underprivileged populations (in most cases there is congruence between low income levels and low digital literacy). Additional partners in the center are the Israeli Employment Service and the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, who refer residents requiring these services to the center.

The Netanya Municipality Digital Center is both evolutionary and revolutionary. The Center is evolutionary in that it is based on insights from the move to digital services by other businesses and public organizations. For example, the move of most of the services to digital and reduction in the number of physical branches in the Israeli banking world, made it very difficult for senior citizens to manage their accounts. The Center is also revolutionary in that it does not only offer standard courses in computer use, but also teaches courses on gaining familiarity and using the online services of the municipality, government, banking system, and healthcare funds, and therefore provides needs-focused capabilities to the participants. The Center's proactive approach is innovative – the Municipality, through the work of the Residents' Services and Innovation Department, has succeeded in anticipating the problem which was likely to arise with the increased digital transformation of the municipality services, and to create a high-quality and accessible solution which provides solutions to its residents.

The list of courses can be divided into several levels:

Level 1 – This level is aimed at populations lacking even basic knowledge of computer use and provides the initial level required so as to begin working in a computerized environment. This level includes the following courses: basic computer and internet skills, basic Office courses, hosting Zoom meetings, Facebook, etc.

Level 2 – This level is aimed at populations with basic knowledge of computer use and a computer environment and teaches practical knowledge of digital services from authorities, internet safety, etc. This level includes the following courses, among others: using a smartphone, familiarity with online municipality and government services, digital banking and healthcare, and online shopping (also provides tools for safe internet shopping).

Level 3 – This level is intended for populations who know how to operate a computer, and provides them with tools for using the computer and internet for pleasure, self-actualization, and documentation of family history for the younger generations. This level includes courses such as building a family tree (enables the senior generation to document family history and preserve the memories of the previous generation who are no longer alive. This course is extremely significant for residents whose family history includes events which are important to document, such as the Shoah or challenging immigration stories from Arab countries), the digital kitchen (enables learning how to create a recipe book and look for recipes online, and recording family recipes so they won't disappear in the future), creating computerized games for travel, etc.

Level 4 – This level is intended for populations interested in acquiring in-depth knowledge of the world of technology, whether for pleasure or for learning a profession. These courses are also aimed at younger populations interested in acquiring tools and knowledge in computer applications as an initial lever to specialization and employment in hi-tech professions, such as JavaScript & HTML, animation, website building, and the basics of information protection and cyber. The courses are built in such a way so that each level serves as a foundation to the next level, enabling progress and advancement between the various levels.

The goal of the Netanya Digital Center is to improve the residents' quality of life, with emphasis on the population of senior citizens and new immigrants, as well as every resident aged 8-88 who is interested in developing and acquiring tools which will help him easily integrate into the digital world, and comfortably use municipal and government services. Based on the understanding that the world in general, and the world of services in particular, is becoming more and more dependent on digital channels, together with the awareness that not everyone has the abilities to be helped by these services – leading to a social, economic, and even health – obstacle.

The activities of the Netanya Digital Center became even more important during the coronavirus outbreak period, when most of the services were moved to the internet due to the lockdowns as well as the need to reduce physical contact with the elderly population which was at high risk. The Center was already active, and succeeded in helping senior citizens make up gaps in their digital knowledge and safely receive the services which they needed by moving the classroom to Zoom, while maintaining a continuation of activity. 




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