Despite rising numbers of online homes, Czechs still behind EU average

Photo: Zanetta Hardy, stock.XCHNG

Over the past five years, the Czech Republic has seen a massive spread of internet users. According to the latest official figures, the number of Czech homes connected to the worldwide web rose by 125 percent over that period. But compared to other countries in the European Union, the Czechs still lag behind.

Photo: Zanetta Hardy,  stock.XCHNG
Around 2.7 million Czech households now have access to the internet, according to a survey by the Czech Statistical Office released on Tuesday. That accounts for 62 percent of all Czech homes, and represents a marked increase compared to five years ago. Statistician Romana Malečková is the author of the latest study.

“In 2006, some 1.2 million homes were connected to the internet while five years later, the number rose to 2.5 million households. This means that over the past five years, the number increased by 125 percent.”

Miloslav Sova
But despite such a sharp rise in the numbers of internet users, the Czech Republic is still behind most other EU member states. In some of the leading countries like the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Sweden, around 90 percents of homes have internet connections, the EU average being 70 percent. Even in some other post-communist countries like Slovenia, Estonia, Slovakia and Poland, the numbers of online homes are higher.

Miloslav Sova is the founder of Internet for All, an association promoting the spread of the internet. He believes it will take years before the Czechs catch up.

“I think we cannot really level up with the leading countries over the next five or ten years. That will only happen with a change of generations. Elderly people in Sweden, Denmark and even Germany became familiar with the internet earlier than those in the Czech Republic. People of all ages can of course get connected at any time but in this country, elderly people don’t seem to be that interested in new technologies.”

Photo: Kristýna Maková
In recent years, Czech officials have launched a series of projects aimed at bringing the internet to larger numbers of people. One of them, called Internet to Schools, was meant to provide online connections to elementary schools; another, entitled Wireless Prague, was aimed at building wifi free spots in parts of the capital. But nearly all such projects failed or ended with corruption allegations, which makes Miloslav Sova sceptical about the role of the authorities in this particular field.

“Over the last decade or so, whenever the authorities tried to do something or regulate something, the outcome was poor. Personally speaking, I would appreciate if the authorities stopped intervening in IT business and related issues.”