Information Search Contest Teams Seniors and Their Grandchildren to Boost Koreans’ Web Savvy

Seonghan Kim (left), 72, and his grandson Hongdg Cho, 12, work together to search the Web during the Information Search Contest in Seoul, South Korea, May 8. Click image for high-res version.

SEOUL, South Korea, June 12, 2003 — While many grandparents wish they heard from their grandchildren more often, Seonghan Kim no longer frets over such concerns. Since taking a class to develop computing skills several years ago, the 72-year-old grandfather has used e-mail to keep in regular contact with his 12-year-old grandson.

On May 8, Kim and grandson Hongdg Cho demonstrated their collective computer savvy by winning the Information Search Contest, a nationwide event that brought together Korean children and their grandparents to celebrate the many ways technology and the Internet can help the young and old connect with ideas and people.

“I am very happy to win this contest,” says Kim. “I’ve used the Internet over two hours a day since I learned computing from the KWIC training class.”

Kim uses his computer for more than just e-mailing his family. He manages a Web site for an organization of retired military officers, and plays chess and other games online with friends. Kim described his grandson as an avid computer user and a “game maniac”.

The contest lasted 50 minutes, with each of the 15 competing teams receiving a set of 10 questions about current events, social issues and general trivia they then research on the Internet. Kim and grandson Cho won by scoring 90 out of a possible 100 points.

Questions included:

  • How much is the entrance fee of Kyungbok Palace, a historical monument in Seoul?

  • Whats the name of a magazine for children, which was first published in Korea by Jeonghwan Bang, a famous Korean who works with children?

  • What was the weather like on May 10 in Asan, a city located in Korea’s Chungnam Province?

General web surfing contests for senior citizens are popular in Korea, but organizers think this is the first such tilt to team a senior citizen with a young person. The event was held — at the learning center of the Korea Welfare Info-Communication Association (KWIC) in Seoul — to commemorate Parents Day, a national Korean celebration this year.

Microsoft Korea worked with KWIC to organize the event, and gave all participants a Microsoft Optical Mouse.

“One of the most serious gaps in the digital divide is with the senior community,” says Oh Gyu Kwon, director of Community Affairs & Relations of Microsoft Korea. “Only 10 percent of all seniors are estimated to use computers and the Internet in Korea. Microsoft Korea supported this event because it provides a great way to help educate seniors on how easy it can be to use a computer and the Internet.”

Each of the senior citizens participating in the Information Search Contest and their respective grandchildren had completed a five-day Information Technology course at KWIC, where participants acquired basic skills of using a computer, the Internet and e-mail. Since 1996, the KWIC has trained over 30,000 elderly at nine locations across Korea.

“Most seniors in Korea are anxious to learn and use the Internet, but there are not enough opportunities for them,” says Young Jae Lee, director at KWIC. “All senior participants in this contest are active Internet users in KWIC, who have their own home pages and received high scores during their courses. We had a difficult time selecting participants because there were so many seniors that wanted to be a part of this contest among KWIC trainees,” Lee adds.

The KWIC was established in 1995 to provide free information-oriented education for people over 60. Today, its membership has reached over than 10,000. The KWIC works to provide education opportunities for underserved groups in Korea, and recommends technology policies to the Korean government.

Since 2000, Microsoft Korea has supported the KWIC technology education initiatives. As part of its commitment to promoting information technology and Internet use of senior citizen, Microsoft Korea donated software and hardware to KWIC.

Microsoft Korea hopes to work with the KWIC to help make the contest an annual event, and to make the program available to more senior citizens.

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