Selfies and mobile news alerts have yet to catch on among the elderly residents of Pshatavan, an impoverished farming hamlet on Armenia’s Turkish border. But if 23-year-old Lilit Grigoryan has her way, that could soon all change.
A former online journalist, Pshatavan native Grigoryan works for the Armavir Development Center, a regional NGO that trains rural Armenians how to use digital technology to change their lives for the better – whether to find work, get the news, learn about their rights or even make new contacts.
Over half of Armenia’s population is estimated to have internet access, but, even so, a digital divide exists between town and country, young and old. In one 2015 survey, a third of the rural respondents said they never use the internet at all; primarily because they don’t have access to a computer or know how to go online. Most of those over the age of 56 said the same.
Those patterns exist as well in Pshatavan, a village of about 2,500 people, an hour’s drive from the capital, Yerevan. Mobile and internet services exist here, but the elderly prefer to stick to what they know – phones, many think, are only meant for calling family and friends abroad. Letters, rather than emails, are for conversations you can keep.
Drawing from her time working in Yerevan, Grigoryan, who moderates the village’s Facebook page, wants to develop NGO programs to help elderly villagers understand how to connect more effectively to the outside world. To implement her ideas, she ran for office in the 2016 local elections, but failed to win a seat.
Nonetheless, she remains a digital bridge between old and new.