Government approves Digital Literacy project which should help low-income groups gain access to the Internet

Photo: Kristýna Maková, Czech Radio - Radio Prague

The Government on Wednesday approved a Digital Literacy project that should give people from low-income groups access to the Internet. The project, put forward by the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry, will cost around seven billion crowns to be covered partly by the state and partly from EU funds.

Illustrative photo: Kristýna Maková,  Czech Radio - Radio Prague
The government’s Digital Literacy project aims to help over 100 thousand people from low-income groups acquire computers and gain access to the Internet. The Labour Ministry, which drafted the proposal, argues that access to the Internet will help fight social exclusion by helping low-income people find jobs, start up a business or gain access to services.

The project should cost over seven billion crowns to be spent over the next five years. The money will partly come from state coffers and will partly be covered from EU funds. The plan envisages lower internet rates for people from low-income groups. As of 2017 operators should start charging them lower prices for Internet access and the state should compensate them for their losses. The subsidy would be along similar lines as that currently being paid out to people with a health handicap who get 200 crowns a month to help cover their phone bills. The subsidy is drawn by about 50,000 people and the Czech Telecommunications Office pays the money to their operators. The Labour Ministry is also planning to secure computers for symbolic prices or entirely for free for those who can’t afford them.

Photo: Kristýna Maková,  Czech Radio - Radio Prague
According to the Czech Statistics Office 73 percent of Czech families have access to the Internet, but only one in three people from low income groups do so. The ministry expects over 100,000 people to file for the Internet subsidy and is still fine-tuning the criteria which would make people eligible for the state aid. In order to facilitate the project’s approval the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry pledged to cover the Internet subsidy expenses from its own budget together with a contribution from the Interior Ministry. The overall expenditures have been estimated at around 400 million crowns.