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Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety - 06/02/2013 - Cybersafety for senior Australians

LAMBIE, Ms Joanne, Managing Director and Business Owner, Stay in Touch Pty Ltd

Committee met at 16:23

Evidence was taken via teleconference—

CHAIR ( Senator Bilyk ): I now declare open the public hearing for the Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety's inquiry cybersafety for senior Australians. Is it the wish of the committee that today's evidence given at this public hearing be audio broadcast? There being no objection, it is so ordered.

I welcome everyone to the hearing today. Ms Lambie's submission noted that there are many seniors who are totally exposed and at risk from cyberthreats due to a complete lack of awareness and education about cybersafety. Ms Lambie, your submission has been numbered 47.

Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that this hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and warrants the same respect as proceedings of the House and the Senate. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of parliament. I now invite you to make an opening statement before we proceed to questions.

Ms Lambie : We started this business, Stay in Touch, in 2009 and we now service over 300 clients in Melbourne in their own homes. It is seniors and over-50s that we service. We have also helped over 2,000 seniors and over-50s through group presentations and training workshops on a variety of technology topics, including cybersafety for seniors on the internet. We help them with one-on-one tutoring services and support in their own home on their own device. We help them buy technology that is suitable to their needs. We help them source appropriate internet plans and as well antiviruses that suit their needs. We help them to set up and we make sure that they are secure and we educate them on how to think smart and protect their personal information online.

We also provide one-on-one tutoring in their own home on a variety of topics, one of which is security on the internet. We provide regular one-on-one computer health check services, typically once a year and sometimes more often for those who want it. This enables us to make sure that their computer remains safe and secure, and running at optimal performance. In line with that, we also do group presentation and training workshops. We have been doing that for libraries and senior groups in community centres for seniors and over-50s. These have been on a variety of topics, but the most popular one at the moment is how to remain safe online. Most of our work is one on one.

Before launching the business in 2009, we completed research on whether seniors and over-50s wanted to learn to use technology and how they would like to learn. Of the 50 who participated in our research which was through questionnaires, individual meetings and focus groups, 100 per cent indicated they preferred one on one. That is because they felt intimidated in group classes and felt that they were left behind, and those who did experience classroom training found when they got home that their settings and configurations were different to what was in the classroom. They enjoy the comfort and confidence that they get from patient tutoring, one on one. This has been reinforced as our business has grown and from the feedback we have received from them.

One-on-one tutoring and support and group presentations are vital to provide that general introduction. To sum up, I think we can improve cybersafety for Australian seniors by providing more support and funding for regular group presentations to continue to maintain and raise awareness on how to stay safe online. We have run these sessions where attendees have paid us directly for group presentations and we have also run these sessions where libraries and councils have paid us and they in turn provide it free for seniors within the community. We see a far greater turnout when councils and libraries commission us to deliver the presentations and it is free to the public. That is where it is a sell-out. It is not only group presentations that work; it is also the one-on-one services. I think subsidising the cost of one-on-one services somehow for lower income seniors would really increase access. Those services would include helping them select the appropriate antivirus software and computer, helping them set it up and making sure that they are secure from the outset, and then the ongoing regular computer and security checks. They are the two areas where I feel we could help Australian seniors with cybersafety.

CHAIR: In your submission, you mention that not many seniors have had the training experience with technology that younger generations have had and that their level of trust is higher with one-on-one training. Can you expand on that?

Ms Lambie : My research a few years ago showed that the biggest increase in internet users was in 1994. A big herd jumped on then. For those who were not in work or education at that point in time where they needed the internet they missed that boat of learning when everyone else started to learn or started to take it up. Our clients tell us is that they put it off thinking it was a passing phase, but slowly and surely they realised it was not a passing phase. The feedback we get is that they then put it off even longer because they were embarrassed about taking it up because they felt they should know it. There has been a slow uptake by seniors and now they are very embarrassed and uncomfortable about moving forward.

In our group presentations we have found that that helps them and it gets them over the hurdle, and they do not feel as intimidated as if they were sitting in front of a computer and having to learn to do something straightaway. Doing a group presentation has actually helped them get over that fear and that anxiety, and it encourages them to take that stepping stone to move forward. When they are ready to move forward, our experience shows that they actually prefer the one-on-one training because they can go at a gentle pace, at a pace that they need.

Our training sessions are quite structured, especially our computer basics program. Each session within that program is 1½ to two hours, give or take. It is designed for seniors and over 50s to work at a gentle pace. They love that. We get feedback on a constant basis, cards and thankyou gifts, and emails saying, 'I'm so glad I've welcomed you into our life.' That feedback and the growth of our business have indicated to us that this is the way they like to learn, and that reinforces the research we did at the start.

CHAIR: That research you mentioned was all part of that 2009 research?

Ms Lambie : Yes, 2009.

CHAIR: Are you able to tell us how much you charge for 1½ or two hours one on one?

Ms Lambie : It is $80 an hour. So for two hours it is obviously $160. They also get a copy of the structured training material that we take them through. For example, for our computer basics session we do four two-hour sessions, typically one a week. We provide telephone support throughout that, a hand-holding process. We give them homework exercises to do in between each session as well so that we know that they are continually learning. When we start the next session, we answer any questions if they have had any difficulties. Most of the time we do not get phone calls in between because of the training material we have provided and the way we taught them. We teach them at three different levels. They have taken it in and they have retained it, and we make sure we go over and over it until they are comfortable with it before we leave at the end of each session. It is $80 an hour but there is the telephone support on top of that and the training material that we give them.

CHAIR: In your submission, you say that many seniors are using old computers that were handed down to them and out-of-date software.

Ms Lambie : Yes, they are.

CHAIR: The committee's inquiry received 536 responses and we found that 44 per cent of seniors are using smart phones or tablets, which are fairly new technologies, to access the internet. That contradicts your data, but I do note that your data is quite a bit older than ours. Do you have any plans to update your data? We have evidence that is contrary to a number of issues you raise in your submission. There has been quite a leap in the last five or 10 years with seniors in particular taking up technology.

Ms Lambie : There is and even in the last three years there has been a big growth in that. As an example, when we do our presentations to Probus groups—and they can range from 30 to 120 people—initially when we first started doing them a maximum of one-third were using technology of some sort, but the last one we did was only last week to the Williamstown Ladies Probus group, and there was an audience of about 80 there, and over two-thirds were on technology. So it has grown quite substantially and what comes with that in that period of time is that if they are jumping on board with technology they are now jumping on board with the newer technology because the older one was so slow.

CHAIR: That is correct. You have also mentioned that you did not think many seniors are using technology for social networking with Skype, but a quick check of Facebook that I accessed today shows that 11.2 per cent of Facebook's 11.77 million users in Australia are aged over 55, so that is about 1.32 million. It is a fairly significant number.

Ms Lambie : That is a lot. Of the over 300 individual clients that we have I could quite easily say that—obviously the tutors have all serviced them—there would only be maybe five per cent using Facebook, but a lot more are now starting to use Skype.

CHAIR: 41.8 per cent of seniors surveyed by this committee indicated they use social networking sites. It might be opportune to update some information there. I do not want to sound rude about it, but as I read through your submission I just thought there were lots of contradictions there, but you having told us that it was done in 2009 could account for some of that.

Ms Lambie : It can definitely account for the fact that they are not all getting the old computers now, because they are coming on board with the newer technology and smartphones and everything. If I still look at our client base there is only about five per cent on Facebook but more on Skype. That is on our client base.

CHAIR: Is your client base around the Melbourne suburban region?

Ms Lambie : Yes, Melbourne metropolitan.

CHAIR: What recommendations would you like to see in the committee's report at the end of this inquiry?

Ms Lambie : The recommendations would be to provide more support for group presentations around cybersafety. We see it through the cyber awareness week each year, which has been running for the last five years, but that is a long stretch between those presentations for that cybersafety week. We have been doing them ourselves for the community for the different councils and libraries and also Probus groups, and they soak it up. If the individuals themselves are paying to come we do not see as big a turnout, whereas if the councils and the libraries are commissioning us to do it, we see a greater turnout when it is free for the attendees. That is for the group presentations.

The other one is that more help on the one-on-one services for the lower income seniors would increase the access to this as well. We have people calling us who can afford the one-on-one service, but there are a number of people who cannot afford the one-on-one service because of low income. We have just started offering a 10 per cent discount for those that are Seniors Card holders and this has already helped some seniors move over that hurdle, however there are still more out there, quite a lot more out there, that just cannot afford that even on the one-on-one with a 10 per cent discount, so more help would be of value there.

Mr HAWKE: Ms Lambie, thank you for your submission. I was just interested in your final point there and the line of questioning the chair went on with. In relation to your submission where you say you are ready to roll out on a national scale with government funding to provide one-on-one tutoring, obviously one-on-one tutoring is an ideal situation, but expensive. How do you see that working? Do you see that as a subsidy? How could that in reality be a cost-effective mechanism for the government?

Ms Lambie : I do not really have the experience to say how it could be for the government. I am just looking at it from the user's perspective: if they were subsidised in some shape or form, be it coming back at the end of the session or through the company that is providing that service. Can it be subsidised so that the individuals themselves can be relieved of some of that pressure of cost? I have not actually formulated a strategy yet on how that could possibly take place.

Mr HAWKE: That is fine. You might not have approached this line of thought yet, but what kind of subsidy? What are you thinking about? If you are charging $80 for your tutoring, what sort of cost are you looking at?

Ms Lambie : That cost would probably be dictated by the individuals themselves if we could do some sort of survey on the individuals to see what they could afford in order to then turn around and say, 'This is what needs to be subsidised.' It is more trying to find out, first of all, what people can afford and then bringing it into line with that.

Mr HAWKE: Just finishing on this, if you have not put any work into that side of it yet, do you feel that, in your experience of operating this business and from your submission, there would be a demand for your service in other places? Do you think that it is well catered for? Do you think that there are opportunities for perhaps other individuals like yourself to set up more organisations in this space?

Ms Lambie : Obviously we are on the internet and have a website. So we are getting calls from people in other states saying that they would like this service. A consortium of businesses could roll out something like that. It is certainly needed all throughout Australia.

Mr PERRETT: Could you tell me how many employees you currently have on the books?

Ms Lambie : We have 10 employees: one is a marketing PR and the rest are all tutoring.

Mr PERRETT: So nine tutors?

Ms Lambie : That is right.

Mr PERRETT: In one city?

Ms Lambie : Yes, they are all in Melbourne.

Mr PERRETT: So in terms of being ready to roll out on a national scale—and I know Mr Hawke has already touched on this—would you be subcontracting?

Ms Lambie : Yes. It is not so much about the manpower. We have actually got the foundations there. The first two or three of years of the business was setting up the procedures, the policies, the training manual, the recruiting process and all the business processes so that we are ready to go out to country areas and also to other cities.

Ms RISHWORTH: I just noticed in your submission that you spoke briefly about some of the privacy settings on things like Skype and social networking. You made a particular comment that, in your experience, it is children or grandchildren setting those up for their parents or grandparents. In terms of those privacy settings, it seems like your submission is saying that the children and grandchildren are not setting up the privacy settings at the beginning. Or is it about the ongoing updates, that once the grandchildren have set it up they do not go back to help the older Australian update their privacy settings? I was just interested in your comments around that.

Ms Lambie : It is both. You mentioned two parts there: the initial installation and also the upgrading of the software as time goes on. It is definitely both. We do come across a few clients that are on Facebook and they are not all necessarily comfortable with it. When we look at their settings, we see that they have not changed the default settings. We need to educate them on those default settings and make sure that they continually review those to make sure that they do have the privacy and security. It is both at the installation and also after upgrades as well.

Ms RISHWORTH: Do you think that, when the children are setting it up for them, the children are more tolerant of having more information out there and it is the need of the older person to have less information? Or is it just generally quite dangerous how much information they are putting on?

Ms Lambie : I am obviously not dealing with the children and grandchildren myself. I do not have the experience to give you a proper answer on that one. However, I can tell you that we get a lot of feedback from our clients stating that they cannot ask their children or grandchildren because they speak too fast or alternatively that they are too busy and they do not have the time. I cannot give you any answer to your question, but the experiences described in those comments indicate to me that maybe the children and grandchildren are doing things very quickly and are not setting things up properly at the start.

Mr ZAPPIA: I want to touch on the issue of phone scams which you make some reference to in your presentation. I am interested in two issues: firstly, do any of people that contact you do so because they have been a victim of a phone scam; and, secondly, do you keep track of the people that you have assisted and have any of them, even with your support, been a victim of a phone scam?

Ms Lambie : We have had people call us because they have contacted a friend or somebody and they have got our name. There was one particular lady that called us. We had not helped her before but the introduction was she felt she was a victim of fraud. It was one of those phone scams where people had rung to say, 'We think you have got something on your computer.' Being vulnerable and fearful, she followed their instructions, putting her trust in them, and they took her financial details and put them on PayPal. She then rang us. She was new to us, and we managed to get her money back for her.

We also spoke to the Vic police, Neighbourhood Watch and the crime squad—we work with Vic police and Neighbourhood Watch here in Kingston and Moorabbin. We got the story into their community newsletter so that we could educate people and everyone would learn from that experience. That lady was new to us and, obviously, it did not happen to her again.

When it is our existing clients, we are continually educating them not so much on all the different threats and scams that are out there—we are starting to put those on our website—but more on what you should do to secure your computer and protect your financial and personal information. That seems to work better than enlightening them about all the individual scams that take place, because they are easier tips to remember. For our existing clients, that is how we educate them but for new clients who come in with these types of problems, we try to fix the problem. We educate the community and we also educate them.

We have recorded a few cases but, whenever we see some, we work with Vic police and Neighbourhood Watch and we get them to put it in their newsletters. We use their logo because is it more prominent in the newsletters.

Ms MARINO: Thank you, Ms Lambie—one question: in all of your client bases and the people you deal with, what is the No. 1 issue in your experience for seniors in their online activities? What is the No.1 cybersafety issue that they are faced with? What has been the most prevalent issue that you have had to deal with?

Ms Lambie : I think the biggest one is fear of the unknown. When we do our cybersecurity presentations and we go through the simple steps of what you need to do to remain safe, it is extremely interactive and then we have a lot of questions and a lot of gratitude at the end of it, which is wonderful. The biggest thing is fear of the unknown, which is a hurdle for everything. Is there one specific topic? There probably isn't. It is more a fear of the unknown. It is education about everything, but it is that fear of the unknown and the reports they see and things they hear which compound that.

Senator PRATT: I have one question: what is your impression of other providers of these kind of services that seniors can turn to? There are consumer protection agencies. There is local government. There is a range of other different agencies that are supposed to offer this support with varying levels of success. I am interested in your impression of how well equipped those organisations are to do the same kind of work that you do.

Ms Lambie : At presentations, we ask at the end if anyone feels they have been a victim and we enlighten people on where they should go if they experience certain things. All of those agencies are great. With the seniors and over-50s who potentially are not as quick on the computer and the internet as others, it is a lot harder for them to get to those agencies. For those who we have been able to take under our wing and show them the way through the multiple different agencies, depending on what has happened or what they need to do, it has probably been a better service than going to individual agencies.

Senator PRATT: I am struck by that, because it was why I asked the question about when someone turns up at consumer protection without really knowing how to explain what has happened to them versus whether they would even know to go to them to start with. Do you have a sense of how we could reduce some of those silos?

Ms Lambie : Where to go?

Senator PRATT: Yes, to make some of those agencies more responsive and less blinkered in dealing with people perhaps.

Ms Lambie : If we were rolling out more group presentations or even more one-on-ones, they would be educated on those. But if there was one entity that could help seniors in guiding them so that they do not have to remember each of those entities that would be better.

CHAIR: Do you have any idea the background of your clients; what sort of levels of education they might have reached; or anything like that?

Ms Lambie : It varies from bus drivers through to doctors. But they all come up with the same thing: it is this embarrassment of not knowing when everybody else does. We have people who have PhDs and it is a bit of an ego thing that we need to overcome because some people tell us straightaway, 'I have a PhD' or 'I have a masters in this'. They feel quite embarrassed that they are well educated but they do not know how to use a computer. We also have people who are not at that particular education or professional level. A wide variety of professions come to us.

CHAIR: What about the gender breakdown of your clients? Is it predominantly one gender or the other?

Ms Lambie : It is both. You would think it would probably be one more than the other. When we are educating couples, because we work with couples in their own homes, a lot of the time it is the male who is driving it but the female who is using the computer.

CHAIR: I thank you for giving evidence today by teleconference. Should the committee have any further questions, the secretariat will seek further comment from you at a later date.