Borrowed Access

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Abstract

Worldwide, there is a debate on growing aging populations and how to help them remain active and independent for longer. Digitalized societies offer, among other things, a range of online welfare services that virtually eliminate the distance and delays between the state machinery and citizens. Aged people can benefit greatly from these online services, completing bureaucratic processes with the click of a button and from the safety of their homes, without waiting in long queues to be served. In some countries, such as Greece, the persistence of a grey digital divide in which older people lack internet access impedes this significant opportunity. Our aim is to cast light on how the digital divide and seniors are described and positioned in the Greek digital discourse, using as a theoretical framework the existing culture (values) and the country’s current welfare-state formulation (a familialist model). To better understand these matters, relevant policy documents were analyzed and nine interviews were conducted with elite public officials from the Greek Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications, and Media. This article reached two key conclusions: 1) the digital divide in Greece is a complex matter with deep cultural roots; 2) there are two distinct digital policies in Greece, i.e., the official policy targeting young people and their acquisition of more digital skills, and the unofficial policy referring to seniors as having “borrowed access” to technology based on the support of their families and immediate social environment.

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