March month of Internet


March is the Month of the Internet in the Czech Republic. The campaign was first launched five years ago in order to draw attention to the importance of the worldwide information highway for economic and social development at a time when few people were aware of it in the Czech Republic. Pavla Horakova has more.

The campaign is run by a non-profit organisation called March - the Month of the Internet or BMI for short. Their goal is to promote the Internet as a means of global communication. What is the situation in the Czech Republic compared to other European countries, a question I put to Irina Zalisova, the managing director of BMI.

"First of all, one of the distinctive figures is the number of users. In this respect, the Czech Republic is on the 24th place in Europe. It's rather bad, I suppose, because we are even behind Portugal and Malta, but on the other hand, we are before Hungary, Spain and Greece."

BMI estimates that about a quarter of all Czechs use the Internet on a regular basis. I asked Ms Zalisova whether high prices for Internet connection were to blame.

"I suppose it's not only a matter of prices. We have rather high prices in comparison with other countries in Europe, but on the other hand, I suppose, it's very strong mental barriers, because Czech people are also very afraid of new technologies, new things, especially some target groups, such as older people, people in small towns and villages."

While some people are conservative as far as new technologies are concerned, others might have problems accessing them. This year BMI has launched a special project to make the Internet available to people with disabilities.

"This year, it will be a meeting of disabled people who are interested in information systems and the Internet. We suppose it will be very significant because it will help not only people with special needs but everybody to understand that there can't be any gap in this process and that information technologies can help everybody in some way and there is only the necessity to find how and why."

The support campaign does not end on the 31st of March. Irina Zalisova again.

"We have a lot to do for the whole year. We have just started several long-term projects targeted at disabled people. And then we started a "business road show". It is a range of promotion and research activities in eight Czech regions. It will finish in May with a big meeting devoted to the term "Go Digital". These activities are very necessary. We have a lot of feedback from the companies that they welcome this, they need this information, they need simple stories about their neighbours who are successful in electronic commerce and it can inspire them to start their own business."