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Perceived Operational Risk

Perceived Operational risks are the most common type of risks and relate to the fear of failing to use technology. The senior population is growing, and lack of engagement with new technology is an issue impacting social connection. Older people are concerned and fearful as to whether they will be able to use their computer, tablet, or mobile phone due to their own personal ICT abilities. Sometimes people feel overwhelmed and get frustrated when they cannot get their devices to work. They don’t trust themselves to overcome an ICT challenge presented to them. This fear is focused on whether the digital device will really do what they want it to do and includes being in control of the functional aspects of different products.

For Joshua, these perceptions of risk manifest in the following ways:

Example 1
Joshua wants to learn
“I fear wasting my time using my ICT device(s).”

Example 1

This risk may be manifested as a feeling that learning a task might be too time consuming to be worth the user's time, leading the user not to engage with it. For example, Joshua does not use any social media, as he feels it would be a waste of his time. He prefers to meet people face to face.

Example 2
Joshua finds out about his persona
“I fear I won’t understand the language of new technology, e.g., Bluetooth, 5G.”

Example 2

Operational risks can be demonstrated as a fear of not understanding the language of technology, a specific app or dealing with software updates. For instance, Joshua wants to keep the old version of his MS Office package because he thinks he will not learn the new one.

Example 3
“I fear I won’t know how to operate my device and forget the instructions before I can use it.”
persona page

Example 3

Operational risks may also be exhibited as a fear of not knowing how to operate a device and forgetting the instructions or doing something wrong to it. For example, Joshua is afraid to use the computer his son gave him because he is unsure of how to use it and he’s forgotten the quick instructions his son gave him with the device.


Can you relate to those example above?  Go to strategies to learn about how Joshua can address these issues.

Individual Strategies for Managing Operational Risk

Strategy Illustration 3


Start simple. Recognise that it will take a bit more time when you are learning something new. Be kind to yourself. Sometimes all you need to do is take a break and come back to the task when you feel refreshed. It is okay to follow your own pace.


Consider the costs and benefits of learning new ICT skills. Start by learning skills that are most beneficial for you. For example, Zoom is a simple tool that gives you the benefits of connecting with your friends and family with little risk.


Break it down. Do not try to learn it all. Learn one thing at a time so you don’t feel tired and overwhelmed.


Be brave and keep trying. Most mistakes can be corrected, and devices will not be broken as you learn. If you are locked out of your devices, for example, you can always take the device to the store to reset. Practise is the best way of learning, and you will gain confidence over time.


Take notes. Write down your ICT problems, solutions, and resources so you can refer to them at a later time.


Search engines. Use search engines like Google or video apps like YouTube. Google ICT jargon or explore YouTube videos will help you learn how to do things - pause, rewind and watch as many times as you need.

Relational Strategies for Managing Operational Risk

Strategy Illustration 4


Cultivate people (family, friends or professional) who have a higher level of digital literacy and are willing to help with technology. Tell them the specific tasks you want to learn. Ask them to focus on them and show you step by step. Remember to take notes so that you can use later.


Find family members, friends or neighbours who are comfortable with being your go to person for more complex technological issues. For example, if your grandchildren have more time than your children, then ask your grandchildren


Seek advice from friends who are supportive and have plenty of time and patience to help you.


Try to have similar devices, software, and services as your friends; so you can help each other. Similarly, when asking for the help of peers, focus on those who have similar devices, software, and services to yours as it makes the task easier.


ICT changes very rapidly and updating yourself might take time. Assess how important it is for you to complete this specific task. If it is a routine task, learn, take notes and practise. If it is a one-off, consider asking a knowledgeable friend to help you out.


Join ICT courses developed for older adults. Attend the courses a second time if you need to. Make sure you discuss with the tutors to find the right level for you. You can approach the tutors outside classes or during breaks to have one-on-one discussion.


If you encounter ICT jargon while learning, ask your tutors as others in your classes might be experiencing the same issues as you.


Health issues. Your support team may have tips and tools to help you overcome any health issues (weaker eyesight, hearing, shaky hands), discuss with the tutors at your ICT groups and more knowledgeable peers.


Visit your local and digital libraries, to explore books, tutorials, manuals or classes that can help you with these specific tasks. Check sites like 'Be Connected', for specific information on how to engage with ICT tasks.


Contact service providers. Some of them are open to helping you with learning to use your new devices and services. You can go to their stores, phone them, or use the chat function on the websites.
Anker 1

Strategies to Managing Perceived Operational Risk

Operational risk is aligned both with the person’s ICT ability and the person’s confidence to try to overcome the perceived risk and engage with the digital device. There are individual strategies people can do themselves to manage this risk, as well as relational strategies which consider the role of social influence on a person’s ability to try new things and interact with ICT.

Working on computer
Strategy with older adults

You may be interested in
Other potential risks that Joshua is facing:

concerns about feeling incompetent, getting frustrated and being overwhelmed with digital technology.
fears focused with online payments, losing privacy, identity theft and automatic payments.
worries about online transactions, not receiving the purchased goods and processing errors.
fear of buying too much online and the costs with upgrading software and devices.
concerns that digital devices encourage physical inactivity and becoming addicted to the devices as well as the strains on eyesight.
Joshua Strategy 1
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