Technologists and policy makers know that Information Communication Technologies (ICT) could dramatically improve the living conditions of older people, and turn ageing from an economic burden into a potentially productive resource. Yet two critical factors have limited ICT use till today. First old persons felt often unease with ICTs, which were too far from the world they were used to live. Second ICT were frequently designed without taking into account older people need and minor disabilities. The scenario has been now dramatically changing.
Baby boomers, the largest generation in Western history, have reached the age of 60. Baby boomers are more educated than the generations that preceded them and have a history of sense of entitlement. They will be a transforming generation in part because of their numbers, and in part because they are the first generation getting old with some familiarity with ICT.
Next years will certainly be then the years of "ICT for Ageing" and universal access to communication and information services is likely to be recognised as an essential human right of senior citizens. It poses, however, various challenges, some of them related to the implementation of ICT embracing design-for-all concepts, some others related to ethical and privacy concerns. Design an deployment of ICT is often driven only by cost-benefit considerations, yet ICT also implies problems of privacy, respect for liberty, dignity, autonomy and other fundamental ethical principles. To get the problems' dimension it is enough to think of technologies, which are beginning to be deployed on a large scale, such as behavioural pattern monitoring systems, in which behaviour patterns of elderly subjects are monitored and any changes detected are reported to care givers; sensors in exit doors that give warning about undesired "movement"; electronic tag and RFID making localisation of the elderly possible; and so on. The new scenario created by the arrival of the new older generation of baby boomers will be therefore marked by the need to define the ethical and privacy frameworks that should be constructed to protect senior citizens from misuse and abuse of ICT. This is SENIOR project's mission.
SOCIAL, ETHICAL AND PRIVACY NEEDS IN ICT FOR OLDER PEOPLE: A DIALOGUE ROADMAP (SENIOR) is a 24-month support action which aims to provide a systematic assessment of the social, ethical and privacy issues involved in ICT and Ageing, to understand what lessons should be learned from current technological trends, and to plan strategies for governing future trends.
While new technologies hold great promise, they also pose risks to privacy and ethical principles. The SENIOR consortium is committed to investigating how new ICT can meet the needs of senior citizens without compromising privacy and ethics. Thus, SENIOR is based on three main principles, which determine the main phases of this project: its goal is inclusion, dialogue is its instrument and technology design is its target.
e-Inclusion and its significance
SENIOR is part of the wider EU strategy established by the Lisbon Treaty aimed at eradicating poverty and social exclusion by 2010. The Riga Ministerial Declaration on e-Inclusion of June 2006 identified six themes which the European Commission uses to foster social inclusion: e-Accessibility (make ICT accessible to all), e-Ageing (empower older people to fully participate in the economy and society), e-Competences (equip citizens with the knowledge and skills for lifelong learning), Socio-Cultural e-Inclusion (enable minorities, migrants and marginalised young people), Geographical e-Inclusion (increase the social and economic well-being of people in economically disadvantaged areas with the help of ICT), and Inclusive e-Government (encouraging increased public participation in democracy).
The SENIOR contribution to policy implementation is twofold. First, SENIOR will describe the ethical and privacy impacts of ICT for inclusion. This objective will be achieved through a series of thematic expert meetings. Each meeting will (i) define ICT systemic solutions and technology trends, (ii) discuss relevant ethical and privacy issues and (iii) weigh the trade-offs between privacy, ethics and technological innovation. Second, the project will identify ICT services and solutions that avoid exclusion and promote inclusion of senior citizens and will develop a roadmap showing how ethics and privacy principles could be incorporated in technology design. The roadmap will set out key actions, investment strategies, resource requirements, risks and milestones.
The main outcome of the project will be a Roadmap (to 2020) that is expected to drive future development and deployment of ICT for ageing in Europe.