PERHAPS hardware is too expensive, Internet content isn't interesting enough or the knowledge of English is insufficient. For whatever reason, computer literacy in Slovakia is quite low. Yet IT players agree that increased literacy is one of the key steps toward a successful future.
The Slovak Spectator recently asked a panel of IT representatives to comment on how Slovaks are adjusting to information technology and whether they are applying it correctly and safely in their working and private lives.
Responding were Gabriel Fedorko, trade director of Microsoft Slovakia; Boris Kekeši, CEO of IBM Slovensko; Jana Ohrablová, PR and marketing manager of Anasoft; and Miroslav Littmann, trade director of Orga Trade.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): In your opinion, why does Slovakia have a low computer literacy rate?
Gabriel Fedorko (GF): Digital space is to a large extent in English, so countries, even in Europe, that don't have English as a native language generally have lower computer literacy. Nonetheless, according to the results of the latest Eurostat survey, Slovakia has an above-average position.
Then there is also the so-called technological-communications factor, which means how people connect to the information. In countries with a liberalised communications market, there is real competition with reasonable prices and interesting services being offered. As a result, the technology is more accessible and better used. Purchasing power also plays a role, and presents a problem in Central and Eastern Europe.
Boris Kekeši (BK): As one of the IT market leaders, IBM has commited itself to supporting the informatisation of society. We are glad that, along with the sector's other leading players, we have succeeded in supporting and accomplishing a research project with the Institute of Public Affairs that provides a real picture of the state of digital literacy in Slovakia. Now it is extremely important that the collected data be correctly interpreted and used as grounds for governmental strategies and an increased effectiveness of the use of finances. Digital literacy throughout wide layers of society is a must, not only a possibility or choice for young people. It is the a basis for securing Slovakia's long-term prosperity and competitiveness on the global market.
Currently, each sector solves its needs by itself. The coordination could be much larger to take advantage of a synergy effect. Almost all EU countries have pointed to the need to build portals that will simplify people's interaction with the state administration.
On the other hand, we must keep in mind that coordination of the public administration is a very complex matter, and there are not a lot of countries that could manage the process better than Slovakia.
Computer literacy is not only about the number of servers, web pages, and mobile phones in the country but also about parameters, such as the ability of citizens to work effectively with technology, the transparency of the business environment and legal system, as well as the extent to which government supports the use of digital technology.
Information and commu-nication technology represents a global shift from an industrial society to one based on information. Development and support of the information society naturally became a key element of many developed countries' political agenda. Unfortunately, Slovakia lags behind other countries in many parameters of this development. Digital literacy is measured by the preparedness of inhabitants to use modern information and communications technology, and is one of the key conditions of achieving transformation into an information society operating on knowledge-based economy.
Jana Ohrablová (JO): A computer has always been only a tool. Behind using it we should look at what people need or want to do, and if a computer can help them to do it. If broadband [Internet] is accessible and interesting multimedia content exists, the number of "living room" PCs will grow. If the electronic services of the state administration are accessible, people will choose to settle matters through the Internet. A lack of interesting content is the primary reason. Purchasing power probably comes second.
Miroslav Littmann (ML): People usually present the costs of a PC and Internet connection as the reason, although they spend quite a lot on mobile phones. Many just don't know what good a PC and internet connection will do them. Last, but not least, is the language barrier. One cannot get by only in Slovak. Maybe there is also a generation gap, that some have a natural distrust toward technology.
TSS: Data protection and IT safety receive a lot of attention, but are the private and public sector in Slovakia emphasising it enough?
GF: In general, I would say yes. I think that employees are knowledgeable about safety. Whether in small, middle-sized or large companies, it is visible that the media has made an impact over the years by repeating what threats lie in open digital space.
On the other hand, it remains questionable what is really done to protect data. Mainly large institutions sometimes look for very complicated solutions and forget about basic and simple measures. In Slovakia, the majority of cases of information theft or abuse have been the result of errors in basic safety procedures.
BK: According to a recent IBM survey conducted in 17 countries, including 8 in Europe, 58 percent of companies believe that information theft and abuse cause deep problems, mainly in lost revenue, the loss of existing and potential customers and decreased productivity. Almost 66 percent identified a company's internal environment as a potential threat to corporate safety, which is also alarming.
Slovakia is no different. Information theft is a genuine threat that management and the IT community are taking seriously. This is a long-term battle against a well-organised enemy, and safety measures like antivirus programmes and firewalls are insufficient. Organisations must also take the human factor into consideration and consider safety as a common working process.
JO: There is still a lot of progress to be made in this area. The efforts to protect users often lack concept, relevant instructions, enforcement and user education.
ML: I think they are not paying enough attention to this problem, as if it does not concern them. But the reason might also be that a lot of people are still not connected to the Internet, so they do not know much about data, viruses and safety.
3. Jul 2006 at 0:00 | Marta Ďurianová