This photo taken on Feb. 27, 2023 shows a public phone and a smart screen inside a digital pavilion which was converted from a conventional telephone booth in east China's Shanghai. (Xinhua/Chen Aiping)
SHANGHAI, March 9 (Xinhua) -- On a busy road in downtown Shanghai, a red digital pavilion attracts continuous attention from passers-by. The digital pavilion contains a public phone, a smart screen and intelligent cameras, while a row of seats stand in front of it.
The spacious pavilion, located on Middle Huaihai Road, was once a conventional telephone booth. It was converted and decorated by the local government and telecommunications enterprises, and can now do more than just make calls.
By touching "car hailing" on the screen, users can request a ride after entering their phone number. The screen provides information such as the taxi license plate number, distance and waiting time.
Another service provided by the smart screen is designed for senior citizens who have no mobile phones. They have access to quick contact with their families by scanning their faces to inform pre-set emergency contacts. The people who are notified can obtain the location of the elderly person and call the pavilion where they are.
The elderly can also use the screen to look up the locations of nearby hospitals and community canteens within a 15-minute walk.
Through this integration with digital technology, the telephone booths, which had fallen into disfavor due to the popularity of mobile phones in recent years, have become popular again. Dozens of them dot busy roads in the municipality, and the number is expected to reach 500 by the end of 2023 and 1,000 by 2025. These digital pavilions serve as a way for the municipality to better support the emergency needs of senior citizens.
Digital technology devices have also found their way into the homes of elderly people in the city's suburban areas. In Xinqiao Village of Fengxian District, the local village committee cooperates with the China Telecom Shanghai branch, a state-owned telecommunications company, to provide smart terminal devices for villagers aged 80 and older.
The terminal device is similar in size to a small clock. Besides telling time and playing music, it has additional functions specially designed for the elderly, who have access to three main buttons on the device.
The seniors can ask the village committee for help in case of emergency by pressing a specific button on their smart devices, and listen to notifications from the village committee by pressing another button. They can also press a button which allows them to immediately dial and answer pre-set phone numbers belonging to their families.
About 100 sets of this terminal device are currently in use in the village and have been warmly welcomed by the local seniors. Its monthly usage fee of around 10 yuan (about 1.44 U.S. dollars) is paid by the village committee.
This elderly service using smart terminal devices is being provided in some pilot streets and towns in Shanghai, and together with the digital pavilions, they will be part of the city's new digital infrastructure to help it build an age-friendly society, said Gong Bo, general manager of the China Telecom Shanghai branch.
For the elderly who are not good at using mobile apps, a municipal helpline formerly used for phone number enquiries was upgraded to meet their needs by dialing 114. The voice hotline serves senior citizens in Shanghai by offering age-friendly help such as ride-hailing and non-emergency patient transport.
As of Thursday, the hotline has provided ride-hailing services more than 155,000 times, and its elderly service has answered 183,000 calls.
The city is making efforts through projects integrating digital technology, to solve the problems encountered by vulnerable groups in internet and intelligent applications and to foster digital inclusion, said Zhang Ying, deputy head of the municipal economy and information technology commission. ■