E-government and the elderly: not self-evident

05 August 2021

We have all seen how difficult online contact with the government can be. The elderly experience the same difficulties as we all do, but they are often less familiar with new technologies, have more difficulties finding their way around the internet, and often need the help of others. E-government is not self-evident.  

E-government is the term used to describe online contact with the government. The majority of the over 65s we spoke to do this via the internet. In addition to internet banking, MyPension and Tax-on-web are particularly popular with the over 65s. 

Difficulties logging on  

Online contact with official institutions and banks is especially convenient for those who are less mobile. The downside, on the other hand, is that the human contact is lost, everything becomes much more anonymous, and older people are therefore less inclined to ask questions. The advent of internet banking, has led more and more banks to close branches here and there. This is forcing people to do their banking digitally. Fortunately, the government recognizes that this is not an option for everyone and has made an arrangement with the banks whereby they must offer universal banking services to non-digital customers for a maximum of €5 euros per month.

The technical aspect is also often an obstacle. Logging in to government websites is no fun for anyone. A lot of older people seem to have trouble logging in using a card reader or the ITSME app and are quite unsure about it. For Geneviève, online contact with the government is still in its early stages. 'I tried for a long time and without success to log in via a card reader and my identity card. But I've never been able to do it. I have no idea why not. A while back, I discovered my citizen profile through ITSME. That was the start of a journey of discovery that is still ongoing," she says.  

'I could use some help but I don't know where to find it.

Help needed  

Older people prefer to get help from a family member who is a bit more digitally savvy, but such help is not always available. 'I could use some help,' admits Geneviève, 'but I don't know where to find it. Moreover, I also want to be cautious. Often it is about personal information such as health and finances. And I prefer to be discrete on that front.' 

Ann also uses ITSME regularly. Although she has confidence in the app, she nonetheless remains somewhat insecure and anxious – and not without reason, as Ann was already a victim of phishing . A fake message on Facebook misused a charity and the name of a friend of Ann's to get her to make a deposit through her banking app.  

Uncertainty breeds caution  

Such uncertainty causes older people to be extra careful in their online contact with official bodies. And that is no luxury, because besides Ann, all the other elderly people we talked to were also confronted with phishing on several occasions, like Rita for instance, who does her taxes online. I've already received e-mails purportedly from the tax authorities or from my bank. How can that be, I say to myself.’ 

Wary of scammers, older people are quick to seek help from others. Linda uses ITSME and Doccle with ease, but still prefers to entrust her online tax return to her husband. Rumolda, on the other hand, relies on her daughter to fill out her tax return online.   

'The small keys also play tricks on me.'

Very satisfied with internet banking  

Internet banking is very well established, even among the elderly. They don't have much choice, because physical bank branches are disappearing very quickly in non-urban areas. Those who are less mobile have to make do with internet banking. Fortunately, in terms of user-friendliness, banks do slightly better than the government. The over 65s we spoke to appear to be really satisfied with their banking app. 

'I carry out basic transactions like consulting, transferring, or paying in a shop  with my bank's very customer-friendly app,' says Rumolda. ‘More complex operations such as adding a new contact, transferring to a foreign country, or looking up account statements I do on the laptop. The app is less comprehensive and the small keys also play tricks on me.' 

With this article, we support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.