DIGITAL literacy in Slovakia has climbed to what has been described as the ‘medium-level’ over the past four years but the gap between people mastering digital technologies and those lacking literacy as well as access to these services has been widening. These are the main findings from a research project called Digital Literacy in Slovakia conducted by the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO). Marián Velšic, an IVO analyst, introduced the results of the third cycle of the biennial project in mid November 2009.
Since 2005 the project has been mapping the preparedness of broad segments of the population for use of modern information and communication technologies (ICT), which is one of the key prerequisites for successful transformation of Slovakia’s economy into one that is more information-based and knowledge-based.
In 2009 IVO conducted an empirical, quantitative survey on a sample of 1,134 respondents age 14 and older. The Focus polling agency collected the data for IVO between August 4 and 11.
The results showed that digital literacy among Slovakia’s population increased again in 2009. The digital literacy index calculated by IVO stood at 0.33 points in 2005; in 2007 it was 0.37 points; and in 2009 it climbed to 0.44 points. This means that the digital literacy of Slovakia’s population climbed considerable over 4 years and in 2009 had achieved 44 out of a possible 100 points. When categorised into low, medium and high levels of digital literacy, Slovakia had advanced from the low category to the medium level over the last four years, IVO wrote in its press release.
“The research confirmed a favourable trend, especially in the ability of people to use a computer and the internet for communication via electronic mail, chat, calls via the internet, discussion forums or social networks, while the population of the latter has been raising,” said Velšic, adding that the survey showed an improvement in abilities to manipulate computers and peripheral equipment and to work with various types of software, all of which created the basis for this progress.
“We have registered significant headway in the ability to work with information and services within the virtual space of the internet or local computer networks, for example in searching for and downloading information and registration and use of electronic services. This has so far been the Achilles’ heel of digital literacy.”
The survey also indicated a narrowing of the past regional gap in digital literacy.
While a few years ago Slovakia could be divided into Bratislava Region – with a digital literacy level exceeding the national average – and the rest of Slovakia, over the past four years some regions such as Banská Bystrica and Žilina (with 0.46 and 0.47 points, respectively) have started to catch up with Bratislava Region (with 0.48 points). The situation in Košice, Prešov, and Trnava regions (all with 0.44 points) has also improved over the last four years. The Trenčín and Nitra regions (with 0.40 and 0.41 points, respectively) have been lagging behind.
On the other hand, the survey uncovered one negative trend – a so-called digital division of society between those in society who have access to ICT and an adequate level of digital literacy and those who have neither this access nor such literacy. Data from 2005, 2007, and 2009 show that this digital division has been gradually widening.
“On one side there is the younger, more educated, qualified and socially stronger and more urban part of the population,” said Velšic. “On the other side, there is the older, less educated, with lower qualification, economically inactive (pensioners and the unemployed), socially weaker and more rural part of the population. While the first one is continuously learning and improving, the other one is actually stagnating.”
Thus, in addition to mapping out of overall level of digital literacy within the population, the project in 2009 concentrated on disadvantaged social groups, those who are digitally illiterate or have a low level of digital literacy.
A tangible and visible result of the project from 2009 is a digital map on the IVO website providing relevant information about levels of digital literacy and illiteracy throughout Slovakia. It is available in the Slovak language and IVO believes the results of its research can help improve access to modern ICT – in other words, to help eliminate the phenomenon of a ‘digital gap’ in Slovak society.
8. Mar 2010 at 0:00 | Jana Liptáková