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China pushes for friendlier digital transportation services for seniors

Written by Wency Chen Published on   2 mins read

The government wants tech-based consumer services to cover seniors too.

Chinese authorities are requiring transportation service providers of city metro systems, buses and train stations, and ride-hailing operators to make their digital services more accessible to older adults, state-owned media outlet CCTV reported on Tuesday based on an official statement.

The statement was released by the Chinese Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the National Health Care Commission, and other relevant departments. It lays out measures to ease the transportation for the elderly. For example, it requires taxi companies to provide telephone reservations and instant taxi-hailing services for the elderly. It also encourages ride-hailing service providers to roll out additional fleets specifically for the elderly, and requires ride-hailing companies like Didi, Dida, and Caocao to add a function for elderly users to call for a ride with one tap in their apps.

A similar function is already live in a government-backed ride-hailing app named Shencheng Chuxing, which since September has allowed customers to hail a taxi with one click in its app, skipping the usual steps of typing in the destination and pick-up location. Instead, elderly riders can verbally tell the driver where they want to go, making the process easier for seniors who are not adept at navigating queries within apps.

The Ministry of Transport met representatives of major ride-hailing companies last week and required them to prioritize seniors in their operations. It also demanded operators to add their own versions of the one-click order function before the Chinese Spring Festival, which falls on February 12 in 2021.

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The initiative also requires public transport operators to continue allowing the usage of cash, certificates, documents, and other “traditional” means of payment and identification for the elderly. Other measures include permitting paper certificates and IDs as alternative proof besides health QR codes—an online system for tracking people’s movements and health conditions during the pandemic—for seniors when they enter public places.  

The move came after China’s State Council released national guidelines requiring local governments and departments to provide proper services to non-netizens in scenarios that include payments through smartphones, hailing taxis from apps, and making appointments at hospitals.

There were 176 million people in China aged 65 years old and above at the end of 2019. The proportion of seniors will increase from 12.6% in 2017 to 15% in 2050, according to projections made by the National Bureau of Statistics.


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