China emphasises digital tech development for its ageing population

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Adapting digital technologies for the convenient use of senior people is one strategy that the Chinese government is taking as a response to its fast ageing population. 

Last month, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued a work plan to all IT and communication administration departments across provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities to promote the development of elderly-friendly digital technologies and meet senior people’s need for digital information and services.

It was also sent to state-owned telecommunications companies, including China Telecom, China Mobile Communications, China United Network Communications, China Radio and Television Network, as well as China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, industry associations and other related enterprises. 

WHAT’S IN IT

The work plan outlines several targeted goals for the next two years, including:

  • having a complete standard and specification system for senior-friendly digital technologies, which incorporates universal design concepts, among others;

  • improved service experience, access, and guarantees; 

  • a more mature industry ecosystem with deep integration and multiple collaborations; and

  • balanced supply and demand.

The government wants Internet applications to be more suitable for elderly users. It is instructing the industry to make Internet usage safer for them by raising their awareness of fraud while also strengthening fraud prevention and control. It also wants to make online services more efficient and accessible by, for example, expanding 5G network coverage in rural areas.

A revision of the evaluation system for the suitability and accessibility of Internet applications is also being sought; support is encouraged for evaluators to carry out professional assessments of aged-friendly products and services, as well as explore certifications. To make a case for applications that have successfully adapted for elderly use, the government is looking to collect and promote more than 300 senior-friendly Internet applications. 

The government intend to support enterprises to develop smart health management and aged care products and encourage and guide them to offer exclusive tariff discounts on telecommunication products and services. Collaboration is also encouraged among enterprises, universities, scientific research institutions, and social organisations to develop senior-friendly technologies and secure patents. 

THE LARGER CONTEXT

China, the largest population in the world, is ageing at a faster pace. People over the age of 60 have been forecasted to make up 32% of the population by 2040 from 17.8% in 2020. The old-age dependency ratio, or the number of people at retirement age compared to the working-age population, is also expected to rise to 66% in 2060 from 18% in 2020.

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