Have you ever wondered what Big Brother is up to these days? For a glimpse, log on the Internet to see Govnet at http://www.government.gov.sk. This is the regular person's only look at what in reality is a lightning-quick communication network created to link any ministry, government office, regional state office, and government employee with access to a computer.
The Government Office, in charge of implementing Govnet, has nine engineers developing it. Although the site is under construction, a sizeable flock of state bodies is already represented here. However, the government discourages any would-be trespasser by veils of secrecy. Officials at Slovenské Telekomunikácie (Slovak Telecommunications) respond to questions about Govnet's purpose with hold-the-line music.
The secrecy may be a question of security, according to Ivan Leščák, technical director at the Internet provider EUnet. "There will probably be a lot of 'sensitive' information from ministries, including e-mail communication of ministers themselves travelling through Govnet," said Leščák. "It is quite a technical challenge to protect any network from good [computer] hacks," he added.
Jozef Kaffka, Govnet's project director at the government office, did say that Govnet is an attempt to bring the government's communication standards to EU and NATO levels. "Interconnection serves to all users of the Govnet network for fast on-line access to information sources and databases of the European Union, NATO, electronic newsletters, Phare help, etc," Kaffka explained.
Technically, Govnet implementation is impressive, with the flexibility to upgrade easily. Using digital circuits with a transfer speed of, at the very least 64 kbps (kilobytes per second) to 2 Mbps (megabytes per second), information moves at the speed of light. Besides being able to communicate with each other and have access to other ministries, Govnet users will be able to enter the vast universe of the world wide web.
Via Govnet, Big Brother is developing projects that will provide state bodies instant access to information about citizens. Planned for the future: citizens' registration and information on their health and criminal records.
That raises an inevitable question whether or not the country is ready for technology that could be used to undermine a person's privacy. After barely eight years of freedom, that is a scary thing to contemplate.
27. Aug 1997 at 0:00 | Daniel J. Stoll