"Could do better" is verdict of survey of internet literacy in Slovakia

The internet is such a huge part of our daily lives today that it's now impossible to imagine living without it. But not all countries are equal when it comes to internet access - or the skills to make the best use of the world wide web. Slovakia's Institute for Public Affairs recently published a report called Digital Literacy 2007. Its verdict: Slovaks could do a lot better when it comes to the Internet. Radio Slovakia International's Michal Groch has more.

The coordinator of the survey and the analyst of the institute for public affairs Marian Velsic claims that Slovakia belongs to the least developed countries in Europe when it comes to the use of the internet:

"The latest information from Eurostat clearly says that we still lag behind the European standard in having and using internet access. We still have technological problems that obstruct us from improving digital literacy in Slovakia."

On the other hand we can still observe the growing trend in the use of computers and the internet in Slovakia. It's just that the dynamics of this process have been slowing down in recent years:

"The situation hasn't changed significantly from 2005 when we also did this research. However certain population groups that used to be basically illiterate have made some improvement. We are talking predominantly about older people, less educated people or those who perform manual work"

Slovakia faces another challenge - regional disparities. The state of digital literacy differs among the regions just as does the living standards and purchasing power. The analysis of the 2005 survey results have already suggested that this may become a serious problem in the future if nothing's done about it. Marian Velsic continues:

"Despite the fact that the Bratislava region is still dominating, the regions of central and northern Slovakia have started to catch up. Unfortunately there is still rather a big gap between these regions and the rest, which constitute the majority."

Only one third of the total number of households in Slovakia has internet access. The main reason why the rest doesn't have it, was the price. Marian Velsic however explains that the reasons for this state have changed.

"Relatively large number of those who don't have internet access, claim that they simply don't need it or they are not interested in such technology. It used to be the price that was the main obstacle in the development of internet access in Slovakia. Here, we have to deal with a lack of motivation, as was proved by several researches last year."

It is interesting that in spite of not really impressive results when it comes to digital literacy, Slovakia has a very good standing in digital illiteracy among European countries. Here is Marian Velsic.

"We can be proud on the fact that digital illiteracy is one of the lowest in Europe. It has been confirmed by the results of the Eurostat survey done approximately a year ago. So we don't see the problem in the basic knowledge on how to use the computer or the internet, we should mainly focus on developing those skills that already exist."

It seems like the actual problem is not the economic situation anymore, but the motivation to improve one's self. This is an area for the government to implement a more active approach in order to motivate people to educate themselves and become more involved in information technology. Slovakia needs to step up in order to face the ever tougher European competition.