Pacific elders improve tech skills with DIGIFALE programme

Original article written by Ripu Bhatia, Stuff on 23 June 2022

An “intergenerational” tech workshop aims to help Pacific elders connect digitally and improve health outcomes.

DIGIFALE is a course launched by Moana Research that connects Pacific elders with younger relatives to give them a basic grasp of technology.

Over five sessions around 200 participants across Aotearoa have been taught everything from texting to scanning QR codes.

Moana Research innovations lead Amio Matenga Ikihele said the programme was about improving health and social wellbeing by bridging the digital divide.

“On one end it is about making sure people can navigate online health websites as well as patient portals…but I think the major thing is around social connectivity,” she said.

“Over Covid everything went online…for many they had to negotiate this new way of communicating or connecting, and online was a platform that could provide that space.”

The course consists of five sessions and covers everything from texting and making phone calls to using email and navigating health websites.

Pacific elders are paired with a younger relative who guides them through the programme. Ikihele said it was a way of “strengthening intergenerational relationships within households”.

“For the elders, it’s a way of connecting into a space where young people are currently in, and for the young person it’s also perhaps communicating using their elder’s first language,” she said.

“That too strengthens their own capability of language and identity, and technology becomes the bridge that brings these two generations together.”

Māngere resident Taulapapa-Magele Isaia Sulu, 72, is taking the DIGIFALE programme with his granddaughter, Estelle-Maria Sulu Toleafoa, 17.

“It’s helping me a lot, it’s very, very good for us. For me, I don’t own or carry a phone. Our young generation is there to explain if we don’t understand. I never used it before, but now I’m very happy to use it,” Taulapapa said.

“It’s important things, being able to ring up a doctor if you get sick, if your grandchildren are late to school, talk to your friends. I’m proud of the people that started up this programme.”

Satuala is the lead navigator of the programme, and facilitates workshops in south Auckland’s Samoan community from the St Therese Parish.

“It helps with their wellbeing also, to have people there to support them and to help them is really important, especially during Covid times, where a lot of our elders can feel lonely,” he said.

“But to have that support from one of their children is extra special because it gives them an opportunity to bond with their child also.”