Internet to be used at Czech post offices

According to the Minister of Information Technology, Vladimir Mlynar, the Czech Postal Service should enable all citizens to have access to the Internet at post offices throughout the country. The company already has the necessary infrastructure - all 3,400 post offices in the Czech Republic are connected to a high-speed backbone network. Alena Skodova reports:

Until now the state-owned Czech Postal Service has been administered by the Ministry of Transport and Communications, but as of January 2003 it will fall under the competence of the Ministry of Information Technology, which is to be newly set up next month. Its Minister, Vladimir Mlynar, is planning to introduce a project to equip all post offices with what he calls 'internet counters', where customers could use various internet-based services. I spoke with the Czech Post Service's spokesman, Ladislav Vancura, who told me that Czech Post had offered its technologies already two years ago, but that state authorities had not yet created proper conditions for bringing the project to life. He told me, however, that the new internet service would not be meant for surfing but for specific uses:

"Only particular services will be offered - those that will secure the general public's contacts with databases of the state administration. That means that people will be able to go to the post office to use the internet for such things as the registration of a gun, a dog, or a car, to file an application for a new passport or for an identity card and matters that concern running a business, such as calculating taxes."

Minister Mlynar says that with the introduction of the Internet for Schools project, at least 50 percent of Czech citizens should be skilled in information technology within the next four years. The truth is, however, that most young people as well the middle-aged use modern information technologies in their everyday lives for private and business communication, banking etc., while it's mostly elderly citizens who still come to the post offices to pay their rent and telephone bills and send letters. So will there be enough interest in internet counters at Czech post offices? Ladislav Vancura again:

"I think people will show an interest. I would not divide them by their age, because there are still enough young people who cannot handle computers. And while one can arrange for instance calculating taxes through the internet, in the end he has to hand over the tax declaration personally, because not all certificate authorizations are operational, and things like electronic signatures have not yet been made fully functional."