Time for seniors to embrace technology
The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) recently published its serious crime report for the period January to September 2023. This report documents 569 reported cases of robbery across the island.
Earlier in 2023, the JCF implored people to exercise great caution when withdrawing large sums of money from financial institutions. With so many people being held up and robbed after leaving these institutions, why are people still withdrawing large sums of cash? Technology has removed the need to do this!
Whilst several Jamaicans have embraced online banking, our older citizens remain wedded to the traditional way of doing things, despite the obvious threats to safety. Let us work on overcoming this fixation.
October is celebrated as Cyber Security and Awareness Month. During this period, the Cybercrimes Unit at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is taking the opportunity to explore various topical cyber-related matters.
I have heard it said that cash is king. More egregious is the thought that technology is only for the Genz or millennials. The time has come to lay these thoughts to rest.
If anything is king, it is technology. Online banking platforms remove the need to physically attend financial institutions to withdraw monies; wire transfers remove the need to physically attend remittance agencies; and debit and credit cards and other electronic payment methods can settle most transactions, including the payment of bills. Therefore, there is no need to walk with large sums of cash and to sit for hours waiting to be seen by a teller. Further, the use of technology may serve to enhance the physical safety of all citizens when transacting business.
Today, an appeal is being made to everyone, but particularly our older citizens: use the technology that is available. Like children and people with disabilities, older people are also considered to be a vulnerable group within any society. Online banking and e-commerce may address some vulnerabilities which may be unique to this important group within our society.
The Pan American Health Organization announced that people over 65 years of age accounted for 7.8 per cent of the total population in Jamaica. This 7.8 per cent should not see themselves as outsiders in the context of the technological space. They, too, can learn and benefit from the technology and should not distance themselves from the conversation.
Today, government pensions are paid by direct deposit to financial institutions. The effect of this is that our pensioners are obliged to interface with financial institutions to access their pensions. Is it even necessary to have our senior citizens spending lengthy hours in financial institutions and physically transporting large sums of cash? Several people may argue that nothing beats the good old feeling of cash, the touch of the cotton and linen fibres through the finger tips. Yes, but you will all agree that thieves are fond of that feeling too!
The time has come for our seniors to fully embrace the technology. It is not here just for “young people”.
Embracing the technology translates to greater independence of our senior citizens. Our seniors will recall that during the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic they were forced to seek the assistance of family members and friends to navigate the online banking space. With the pandemic behind us, should our seniors revert to old habits? Their ability to independently navigate the online banking and e-commerce space, outside of their trusted community, is critical.
This brings into question the role of financial institutions acting as an independent agents in this regard. I canvassed the views of two senior deputy directors of public prosecutions, Claudette Thompson and Jeremy Taylor regarding senior citizens and the use of technology in conducting transactions. Taylor highlighted their vulnerability to fraud being perpetrated by strangers as well as close family members and associates, even the practical nurse or the household helper. He further highlighted that they may be a soft target for criminals who lurk around financial institutions. Thompson highlighted that financial institutions have a role to play in assisting the elderly to learn, trust, and embrace the technological platforms and encouraged patience in serving to educate their elderly clients on the use of these platforms.
Our senior citizens are digital citizens. We encourage them to embrace the technology whilst encouraging others to teach and guide them in this space. Let the obsession with cash rest in peace!
Andrea Martin Swaby is deputy director of public prosecutions and head of the Cybercrimes and Digital Forensics Unit.