China’s tech heavyweights are finally making a big push to help older people better access digital technology. Over the past month, Baidu launched a large-font app designed for the elderly that also features a “companion radio” broadcasting the hottest news of the day. Alibaba-backed Gaode Map rolled out new services for the demographic group as well, boasting functions such as one-click ride-hailing that does not require inputting a destination—along with bigger fonts too.

While the digital divide remains huge, big tech seems to be becoming friendlier to senior citizens. How helpful will these new functions be, and how soon can we expect the technology gap to be bridged?

Bottom line: The accessibility problem for the elderly and other digitally challenged people won’t be solved overnight. Larger fonts certainly help, but ultimately it’s the complicated user interfaces and navigation that have been holding people back. Redevelopment and education take time. Still things are trending upwards. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the transition and, along with some top-level nudges, you can bet the pace will continue. The untapped markets are too large to ignore.

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Jane Ho

Jane Ho is a Shanghai-based reporter, covering business dynamics in the Greater China area. Connect with her at janeyanho [at] gmail.com.