In Seoul, Efforts Grow to Bridge Digital Divide for Older Adults | Be Korea-savvy

In Seoul, Efforts Grow to Bridge Digital Divide for Older Adults

A kiosk (Image courtesy of Yonhap)

A kiosk (Image courtesy of Yonhap)

SEOUL, Jun. 13 (Korea Bizwire) – A new survey has underscored the increasing adoption of digital technologies like kiosks among older South Koreans, even as significant hurdles remain for many in that demographic navigating the online world. 

The report, released June 12 by the Seoul Digital Foundation after interviewing 5,500 residents aged 19 and above, found that 81.7% had used self-service kiosks, up 4.8 percentage points from 2021. 

Crucially, 57.1% of those 55 and older reported kiosk experience, an 11.3 percentage point jump in just two years, with usage rates hitting 79.1% for ages 55-64, 50.4% for 65-74, and 19.1% for 75 and above. 

Yet difficulties persisted, with 59.6% of elderly respondents and 60.9% of those with disabilities citing challenges with kiosk interfaces. Feeling self-conscious around others in line was the top hindrance for seniors, followed by struggles with option selections and confusing terminology. 

The disabled population frequently lacked means to request assistance and also found selecting options cumbersome.

When it came to mobile apps for purchases, food deliveries and transportation bookings, adoption remained low among the elderly at 38.4%, 30% and 27.4% respectively.

Just 28.4% of seniors reported obtaining digital certificates required for many online services, compared to 63.6% across all age groups.

As daily life necessities increasingly shift online, the report warned those unable to fully utilize apps face higher costs and inconvenience accessing offline alternatives — an emerging “elderly tax.” 

When facing digital hurdles, 60.7% of seniors relied on assistance from others nearby, while 13.3% simply abandoned the task.

Awareness of generative artificial intelligence, capable of creating new text, images and videos from data inputs, reached 55.3% overall but only 24.1% among the elderly and 25.9% for the disabled. Just 2.3% of seniors and 5.6% of the disabled had actually used the technology. 

Excluding the 55-and-older cohort, 80.4% of respondents understood AI conceptually, while 87.5% could operate AI-enabled devices in daily life. However, only about two-thirds could identify AI application examples or grasped the risks involved.

The digital foundation will publish the full “2023 Seoul Citizen Digital Competency” report on its website this month as it partners with city officials to enhance programs bolstering technological skills, particularly for underserved groups.

“Utilizing these findings, we will strengthen comprehensive support ensuring the elderly and disabled can access digital benefits without being left behind,” said Kang Yo-sik, the foundation’s chairman.

M. H. Lee ( 

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