Simbioza Mobiln@ – a mobile classroom on wheels – aims to increase digital skills and competencies among the elderly, focusing in particular on those living in remote and rural areas and actively helping them to become “fearless” users of ICT services, tools, which consequently increases their social inclusion and active participation in society. With the implementation of Simbioza’s model of intergenerational cooperation through volunteering, the project also enhances digital skills among youth and other social groups. 

Get to know the initiative

Slovenia has one of the most rapidly ageing populations not only in Europe but also in the world. Although Slovenia has relatively well-developed digital infrastructure (at the level of Digital Frontrunners), only 55% of the population of Slovenia aged between 16 and 74 have at least basic digital skills, which is below the European average (DESI Index), and the elderly are one of the most vulnerable groups, who are finding it particularly difficult to cope with the digital transformation of society.

Simbioza Mobiln@ is not only an answer to bridging the gap between the elderly and digitalization but also first and foremost aims to help the elderly how to use ICT technologies. Digital empowerment enables them to have a higher quality of life, be more independent, informed, and, above all, be more socially included in society. The purpose of that is to provide the elderly a glimpse into the new (future) technologies through the empirical, educational, informal, and interactive experience in order to help them to overcome their fear of using the technologies, which are already available to them. Simbioza Mobiln@ also introduces new flexible forms of learning in an innovative learning environment that supports the development of digital skills among the elderly. Besides free-of-charge ICT workshops, individual counselling and assistance (on the spot), additional service for support is available to them through the Simbioza’s Magda app.

The organisations participating in the project are united within the Simbioza Community, which includes 205 different organisations from all statistical regions of Slovenia (primary and secondary schools, homes for the elderly, other NGOs), as well as many other Slovenian organisations which are not part of the Simbioza Community.

Why is Simbioza Mobiln@ a good practice?

Simbioza Mobiln@ is the first of its kind in Slovenia and in wider region with its latest digital education initiatives, enables the transfer of knowledge in the use of ICT tools and services to the elderly, especially to those who do not have access to knowledge providers or non-formal educational institutions in the field of ICT. Through a classroom on wheels that goes beyond the traditional “four-walled” classroom, Simbioza Mobiln@ reaches out especially to the elderly living in remote areas, thereby contributing to bridge the ICT education gap between urban and rural areas and the gap between Slovenia’s elderly population and the unstoppable progress of technology in general, by enabling the contact with modern technology and raising the awareness of the benefits of the use of ICT tools and services. Besides the execution of different ICT workshops (on the spot) by Simbioza’s staff and local volunteers from the Simbioza Community, the vehicle is also equipped with interactive technologies in the field of entertainment, communication, health, everyday life, etc.

Simbioza’s Magda app is the first mobile application for elderly in Slovenia, which among others includes Magda’s classroom, where various educational materials for independent self-learning and the adopting of new digital skills are available to them, also free of charge. The learning materials are the result of many years of work Simbioza’s experts in the field of digital literacy of the elderly and are also equipped with illustrative video guides, quizzes etc. They have upgraded the mobile app Magda with 30 learning contents (video guides) and 30 quizzes and the app has currently 5200 active users.

Although Simbioza Mobiln@ was launched during the turbulent period of the COVID-19 epidemic, they have executed 143 workshops in the duration of 754 educational hours for 2.506 elderly participants. In addition, they have also executed 125 face-to-face activities for the elderly in a duration of 750 educational hours for 6.412 elderly across Slovenia. In the implementation of project activities, 325 volunteers from all 12 statistical regions in Slovenia were involved.

The project is an illustrative example of the great significance of NGOs in responding quickly and successfully, even in unexpected circumstances (COVID-19), to two of the key challenges of the modern world – a longlived society and digital transformation. In this context, the project places at its core one of the most vulnerable groups, the elderly. Through an innovative approach in giving them access to digital knowledge carriers it gives them the opportunity to become fearless users of ICT.

Simbioza Mobiln@ in 2023

Although the project officially ended on the 31. December 2022, Simbioza Mobiln@ continues to operate successfully. In the period from January 2023 to May 2023, it has carried out 35 visits across Slovenia in which more than 750 participants (elderly, volunteers from local communities) participated in the activities. By the end of 2023, at least 100 more visits are planned, which are estimated to involve at least 2.500 participants.

Moreover, the initiative has been recognized by the Ministry of Digital Transformation of the Republic of Slovenia, which, based on the results of the mobile unit, is considering implementing more mobile units to provide training in digital competencies to the elderly. Simbioza Mobiln@, as an example of good practice, can certainly be a starting point and a foundation for implementation in a broader context, i.e. in societies facing the same or similar societal challenges.