The Smartphone Age Gap

As someone that has worked for a major IT supplier for 20 years and uses a smartphone, laptop, and tablet, I regard myself as reasonably competent with technology. However, an experience at the weekend made me take a closer look at the impact of the smartphone on everyday life.

I am living in Malaysia, and this is a country that has a very high number of smartphones. Indeed, if you look at some numbers of phones versus population, it will appear that nearly everyone has one.

However, closer examination will inform you that, while 85% of phone users have a smartphone, only 30.5% of phone users over 65 years old have a smartphone.

For a long time, we accepted that the young would be more into technology than adults. If we needed a child to set the video recorder so what, and which intelligent adult wanted to play video games anyway?

But increasingly technology has intruded on all aspects of our life. The pandemic has further increased this intrusion. Until Covid-19 I barely knew what a QR code was. Now I need to scan one every time I enter anywhere. Here they even put QR codes for scanning before you could enter the park for a walk.

But where it really hit home was on my visit to the theatre on Saturday night. I had accepted my need to scan to enter the building, but then it got complicated. I had printed out the receipt from my emails that showed I had paid and what seats my wife and I were in.

But that wasn’t good enough. “Where are your QR codes?” asked the person on the door. Apparently, there was a further document at the bottom of the email that I needed to download. When this was opened, I was told to ‘screenshot’ the two QR codes and then save them to my photos. I could then open my photos and let the person on the door scan my QR codes.

At least I was now through the door, but before I could go to my seat, I was confronted with another ‘QR’ code. Scan this for the programme I was told. After more instruction I managed to get the programme onto my smartphone. However, I was now the proud possessor of a programme the size of my smartphone. Even worse, the announcement at the start of the performance told us all to turn off our phones, so how could I refer to the programme?

At least I am in the 30.5% who have a smartphone. I was left wondering what happens to the remaining 69.5% without one. Does this new technology stop them from attending cultural events and does it stop them having a programme?

It was salutary to note that all the staff at the theatre where under 30. I am sure that they think their use of technology is very clever. But do they ever stop to think of their parents and grandparents who they may be putting off attending these performances?

More importantly, how many more things are people barred from doing because of their lack of a smartphone. Make a start and give me back a real ticket and a real programme and I promise to recycle them in return for allowing your productions to enrich me in my old age.

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