Slovakia

Interview with Sona Makulova

“The future of e-content in Slovakia is very promising”

How would you define e-content in Slovakia?

E-content in my country means the content that is in digital form delivered over network-based electronic devices and used and interpreted by the users. In the last years in Slovakia there is a lot of research about the behavior of the users in order to design user friendly systems. More attention is paid to the user experience and to such fields as usability, information, interface and interaction design, knowledge and content management and information architecture. There are many companies in Slovakia that create, manage and distribute digital data as well as the companies which develop software application for the management and distribution of digital data. But the data is transformed to the knowledge only when it is perceived and understood by the users

“Our society is now defined as the Information Society”

What’s the status of e-content in Slovakia?

The strategic goal for 2010 set for Europe at the Lisbon European Council in March 2000 was “to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.” Our society is now defined as the Information Society, a society in which low-cost information and ICT are in general uses, or as the Knowledge Society, to stress the fact that the most valuable asset is investment in intangible, human and social capital and that the key factors are knowledge and creativity.

This new society presents great opportunities: it can mean new employment possibilities, more fulfilling jobs, new tools for education and training, easier access to public services, increased inclusion of disadvantaged people or regions. The government of Slovak Republic approved the document “Information Policy in Slovakia” on 13th of June 2001 where they declared its joining to the initiative eEurope+.

The objectives for eEurope+ Action plan were following:

Objective 0

  1. a) Accelerate the provision of affordable communication services for all
  2. b) Transposition and implementation of the acquis for Information Society

Objective 1

  1. a) Cheaper, faster, secure Internet
  2. b) Faster Internet for researchers and students

Objective 2

  1. a) European Youth into the digital age
  2. b) Working in the knowledge-based economy
  3. c) Participation for all in the knowledge-based economy

Objective 3

  1. a) Accelerating e-commerce
  2. b) Government on-line
  3. c) Environment on-line
  4. d) Health on-line
  5. e) European digital content for global networks.

On this basis a proposal for the Strategy for Building an Information Society and Action Plan was submitted. This proposal was approved by the SR Government in Resolution no. 43 of January 21, 2004.

The main objectives of the Information Society strategy under SR conditions are to create favorable conditions for:

  • Coordinated, conceptual and therefore effective expenditure of public finances appropriated for the development of information society;
  • Sustained development of the knowledge base, skills and competitiveness of the population;
  • Making the performance of public administration more effective, and sustained development of administrative capacities in the public sector;
  • Realization of a transparent and corruption-free public administration.

The Action Plan (AP) for 2004 included in total 56 tasks. The office of the Government Commissioner for Information Society was created in 2005.

According to the strategyy attainment of the main objectives of information society is synonymous with the development of its basic pillars. These are designed to create favorable conditions for the deployment of new ICTs into all relevant aspects of social, political and economic life of the country. These pillars are the following:

  • Content – information and services
  • Human capacities – development of relevant skills
  • Infrastructure for access and connectivity

Which area of e-content (e-health, e-biz, e-culture, e-government, e-entertainment, e-learning, e-science, and e-inclusion) is best developed in Slovakia?

In Slovakia not all areas of e-content are developed at the same level. There are many national on-line content initiatives. The largest directory of Slovak Internet Zoznam slovenského Internetu (www.zoznam.sk) shows the diversity of web sites in Slovakia. There are number of web sites of the ministries, higher education institutions, local authorities, libraries, companies, etc. Many public authorities are establishing new information systems and provide citizens with required information.

Lot of emphasis is put on the development of e-government. The agency MVK realized research “The citizens of Slovakia and the electronic services of public administration” from 13. – 27th of June 2003 on the basis of 1126 respondents. The aim of the research was to find out the attitudes of the adult population to the electronic services of public administration and also the ability of the population to work with PC and internet, because it is regarded as very important condition to work with internet.

According to the survey the websites of the government, parliament, ministries, etc. visited already 42% users of the Internet. To the most visited websites belong Tax offices (18%), Office of the Government, Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family (14%). The other websites were visited only by less than 10% of Internet users; it means not even 3% of the population. The problem is perhaps in the content of the websites.

There are some very useful projects concerning e-government. One of the most used is public information portal Ob?an.sk (www.obcan.sk) that provides current and accurate information about different modes of providing public services by state administration and selected bodies of local autonomies.

“Lot of emphasis is put on the development of e-government”

Another project Webocrat (www.webocrat.sk) was solved within the framework of the EU 5th Framework Programme, coordinated by the Technical University in Kosice. Web system that has been developed in the framework of the project provides citizens with innovated tools for communication with public administration.

The first Progress Report of the eEurope+ Action Plan from July 2002 which was presented at the European Ministerial Conference in Ljubljana placed Slovakia at the tail end of candidate countries in most relevant indicators used to measure the current state of information society. The Final Report presented at the European Ministerial Conference in Budapest in February 2004 was not much favorable for Slovakia.

In introducing of e-Government in Slovakia there are many barriers as organizational (e.g. need for information sharing across departments, organization change), financial (costs), and social (e.g. trust and confidence in online interaction with governments, digital divide etc.). On the basis of the discussion at the Business Roundtable on 22nd of April 2004 as a part of the EU program ACTeN (www.acten.net) with regard to the approved document Strategy for Building an Information Society and the Action plan that is derived from the tasks in the initiatives of eEurope+ and eEurope2005 the following recommendations were proposed: (http://www.elet.sk/brt/new/conclusions.html)

  • A gradual centralization of jurisdictions in the area of information society to one coordinating institution, the office of the government commissioner for information society. It should be an independent central state agency responsible for development of information society with its own budget and defined competencies,
  • Building information society should be a priority for the government, the tasks declared in the Action Plan should be fulfilled with the active use of Public Private Partnership,
  • The new law for Information Systems of Public Affairs should correspond with EU standards and should create a space for implementation of necessary legislations for the dynamic and sustainable development of an information society,
  • Education and training are essential to ensure that citizens have the necessary digital literacy to be
“The internet is used primarily for education (78.16 percent), e-mail (69.45 percent), entertainment (62.41 percent), but also for business purposes”

able to take full advantage of the services offered by eGovernment. Digital literacy of all state administration by the year 2006 should be the priority.

Another very well developed area is on-line media industry. Most of the newspapers and journals are in digital form. They are mostly free of charge and offer readers’ feedback as well as the search facilities. There is also TV broadcasting through the Internet, major obstacle is still limited bandwidth, especially in small towns and villages.

In the area of E-commerce there are many different initiatives providing users with online access to databases, allowing them to enter virtual shops and even do e-payment. B2B is also in its infancy, contracts and business deals are carried out mostly by traditional means.

In the development of areas for e-culture, e-biz, e-health and e-government there is a lot of influence of the Information Policy in Slovakia, especially the influence of the appropriate ministers.

In 2002, a new program of implementation of information technologies was worked out by the National Library and, subsequently, approved by the Government. The Minister of Culture was ordered to set up a project on the Virtual Library of Slovakia (www.viks.sk) until the end of 2003, with regard to other digitization programs and the eEurope+ Initiative.

The Virtual Library of Slovakia (as a digital library) will represent an integrated complex of electronic primary and secondary information resources that belong to the most important collections of the Slovak National Library, other libraries or Slovak museums, archives and galleries.

Which sector (business, private sector, government or civil society) in Slovakia is advanced in developing e-content?

According to the eEurope+ Action plan in Slovakia the Slovak government pays attention to the development of all areas of e-content. But in my opinion in the development of e-content still very important role play business and private sector and civil society.

How would you describe the gradual progress of development of e-content in Slovakia?

The progress of development of e-content depends on many factors. The very important is the

“The progress of development of e-content depends on many factors. The very important is the development of information and communication infrastructure”

 

development of information and communication infrastructure. According to the survey that was done by MVK during 13 – 22nd of June 2003 the PC penetration has increased from 11% of the households in 2001 to 35, 9% households in 2003. The very positive finding is that nearly 41, 6% of the population can use the computer. Internet usage in Slovakia is also growing.

According to the study examining search habits and content preferences of Slovak Internet users that was conducted in September and October 2002 out of 1676 users only 8 percent of the surveyed users are always satisfied with the found information, while 70 percent are mostly satisfied and 20 percent are sometimes satisfied.

The internet is used primarily for education (78.16 percent), e-mail (69.45 percent), entertainment (62.41 percent), but also for business purposes. The survey showed that, while Internet users in Slovakia accept the Internet as a means of mass communication similar to TV, the press or radio, there is still a problem with websites’ content, with only 37 percent of the web users surveyed satisfied. Of those users surveyed, many do not know how to search effectively for the desired information. The respondents consider the Internet as an important source for getting the information, with 40,63 percent of those surveyed spending more than one hour daily searching for information.

What major initiatives have influenced the development of e-content in Slovkia?

The Slovak government approved on 21st of January 2004 the Strategy for building and Information Society and the Action plan. The document is derived from the tasks in the initiatives of eEurope+ and eEurope2005. The strategy proposes the realization of the following tasks:

  • Setting the base line – the analysis of the initial conditions in the area of information society in Slovakia,
  • Identify the main pillars of information society on which the strategy is built,
  • Determine the direction of the process through a causal relation between dependent and independent variables and the significant areas,
  • Create an institutional and legal enabling framework for a dynamic development of information society,
  • Set up and periodically update an action plan corresponding with the strategy (Strategy for Building an Information Society in the Slovak Republic 2004).

In January 2002 Slovak Telecom in co-operation with the government of the Slovak Republic initiated the eSlovakia project the aim of which is to support informatisation and Internet penetration of the society. The project stands on three pillars:

  • iAccess – making access to the Internet and connection easier.
  • iEducation – the support of electronic education and helping people to improve their skills in utilisation of the Internet.
  • iContent – support of creation of useful and valuable Internet content which would cover various needs of citizens, additionally enabling access to practical and useful information sources and electronic services.

In connection with support for the development of broadband access, the MTPT SR (Ministry of Transport, Posts and Telecommunications of the Slovak Republic) has prepared a National Strategy for Broadband Access in SR. The material was submitted to the Government for approval in December 2004. It establishes objectives and procedures for the future development of broadband access in Slovak Republic.

On 5th of June EU Commission launched five-year strategy to boost the digital economy. The aim of the initiative “i2010: European Information Society 2010″ is to foster growth and jobs in the information society and media industries.

The Commission is promoting high-speed and secure broadband networks offering rich and diverse content in Europe.

What are the major bottlenecks in the path of e-content development in Slovakia?

The problems that slow the development of information society in Slovakia could be summarized in the following points:

  • There is still inadequate political support for information society and inadequate institutional framework of the process,
  • A great need for a strategic vision of information society development,
  • Absence of coordination between state and public organizations in the area of information society,
  • Absence of and adequate legislative framework for an effective deployment of information society,
  • Spontaneous, fragmented and ineffective utilization of public finances.

The current state regarding access to information through the Internet and its usage in Slovakia is in comparison with developed EU countries unsatisfactory. The present penetration of narrowband household connections hovers around the level of one-sixth the average penetration in countries of the EU. The reason for such a situation is no longer the technical unavailability of narrowband Internet access, but primarily the public’s low purchasing power in comparison with prices of computers and Internet connection, and also the low motivation of potential users to arrange connection. This motivation comes from a lack of computer literacy, which would to a large extent motivate towards Internet use, and partly also from a lack of user-friendly information services. A significant priority in the

“The primary strategic objective of the State policy in the area of electronic communications is the satisfaction of needs of the Slovak economy”

area of Internet access for all is achieving a decrease of Internet access prices by strengthening market competition. A significant element for the near future is also the possibility of building wireless networks for individual or group connections (so-called hot-spot) to the Internet.

In most countries, especially developing, e-content development is significantly dependent on ICT infrastructure and ICT facilities. But, in some, ICT has become pervasive and e-content development is primarily subjected to the initiatives of an individual/organization/government, etc. What is the situation in Slovakia?

The Slovak government approved on 21st of January 2004 the Strategy for building and Information Society and the Action plan. The document is derived from the tasks in the initiatives of eEurope+ and eEurope2005. The eEurope2005 Action Plan set the following targets:

  • Interactive public services: By end 2004, Member States should have ensured that basic public services are interactive, where relevant, and accessible for all.
  • Public procurement: By end 2005, Member States should carry out a significant part of public procurement electronically cutting costs and raising efficiency in government procurement.
  • Public Internet Access Points (PIAPs): All citizens should have easy access to PIAPs, preferably with broadband connections, in their communes/municipalities.
  • Broadband connections: Member States should aim to have broadband connections for all public administrations by 2005.

ICT infrastructure is improving, but there are still large differences between the regions.

How would you describe the ICT scenario in Slovakia in terms of infrastructure, penetration, and policies?

The official document National Policy on Electronic Communications (NPEC) for the next years defines the strategy of the development of electronic communications networks and services in Slovakia, particularly in the field of improvement of the legal framework, strengthening of the independent regulatory body, development of a competitive environment, securing and protection of end users rights, support of the development of information society services and international co-operation.

The primary strategic objective of the State policy in the area of electronic communications is the satisfaction of needs of the Slovak economy, requirements of natural and legal personalities and interests of the State in provision of quality, reliable and widely accessible services of electronic communications within a scope corresponding to the developed EU states and the integration of the Slovak Republic into information society of the 21st century (cited from the document National Policy on Electronic Communications).

What’s the future of e-content in Slovakia?

The future of e-content in my country is very promising. There is a significant penetration of computers and also the percentage of users connected to Internet is growing. Government pays attention to the initiative eEurope+ and supports all actions that help to transform our society to knowledge society. Slovakia became the part of EU in May 2004 and is getting a lot of financial support from the structural funds. Such initiatives as the projects eSlovakia or Infovek play very important role in bringing the internet to schools and to every citizen and to transform our society to information society. They help to develop the digital literacy of the inhabitants of all regions in Slovakia for the purpose of life long learning and education.

Which is the most preferred medium for e-content production in Slovakia?

According to me the most preferred medium for e-content development is Internet/web and Mobile/Wireless. According to Computer Industry Almanac worldwide internet population in 2004 was 934 million, they expect the number in 2007 will be more than 1.35 billion and the number of internet users will continue to grow strongly in the next years.

How do you recognise the best e-content practices in your country?

National e-content award in Slovakia is organised by SlovakPrix Multimedia (www.slovakprix.sk). It was established in 2002 as the Slovak national multimedia association. It is an associate partner of the World Summit Award in Slovak republic. Its main activity is the organization of the Slovak Multimedia Content Award and establishing a platform for the development of new media industries in Slovakia and professional networking of producers and designers. The goal of the SlovakPrix Multimedia is to create a network of multimedia producers, experts, designers, educators and scholars and support multimedia creation in the Slovak Republic. In 2005 it was already 3rd year for the best national e-content award, we proposed the same categories as in the World Summit Award.

There was only one more category, Special category for the students. Most of the nominated products were websites in the category of e-health. There is a trend in Slovakia to keep to the standards of the World Wide Web Consortium, more websites use content management systems and pay more attention to the information architecture and usability. If we compare the nominations we received this year with those in the last years, they have much better navigational support and search facilities. Unfortunately only very few of them are web accessible for the disabled users.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>