Is there life without the Internet?


Working in a radio station makes you so dependent on news-sources and technology that it comes as a bit of a shock to hear that many people are leading full and happy lives without the Internet. A poll just out indicates that one in two Czechs - or 53 percent of the population to be exact- have no experience with it what-so-ever. One in seven say they want it to stay that way.

So who is browsing the net here in the Czech Republic? According to available statistics the answer is young people, people with a secondary or university education and above average salaries. For people under twenty, life without the Internet is unimaginable.

But older people living out in the country don't have it -and many don't appear to want it. They live the way they always have - going to work, spending the afternoon pottering about their gardens, reading the papers and watching TV. They know about the Internet from their grandchildren but many will tell you that these modern inventions are not for them. This makes things a bit difficult for local councils whose life would be much easier if they could just post information on the web. Many offer the service -but they can't rely on it because so many inhabitants would be cut off. So they make use of the fact that although elderly people don't have the Internet they have taken to mobile phones like ducks to water. Many town halls now send their inhabitants SMS messages.

But my favourite places are the small towns and villages where it seems that life has come to a standstill. There information comes to you through the local grapevine - which means women gossiping over the fence and men gossiping in the pub. One shouldn't underestimate its efficiency. I have found that if the news is juicy enough then this grapevine often works faster than the CTK news agency. And as for the official announcements they come over the local PA system.

There's a bit of music to draw your attention and give you time to run out of the house to hear what's up and then someone's daughter - whom you know well- announces that there is to be a ball at the local dance hall this Sunday. Or, she says, the problem with the stray dog has been resolved and thank your Mr. and Mrs. so and so for taking him in. Last summer, while staying in my hometown in south Bohemia, I was enchanted with the announcement that EU representatives would be coming to see what life was like there - "please be nice and patient with them and give them whatever information they need" - the young woman asked the locals. Frankly after a week of being glued to the wires these visits to my hometown give me immense pleasure.