e‐Inclusion initiatives from private and non‐profit European entities (X)


(CONTINUED FROM   23/02/14)

8.Internet Terjeszteseert Alapitvany – WiFi Village
Interviewees:
•Matyas Nagy, ITA, Project Manager;
•Andras Nyiro, ITA, President.

Abstract: the initiative aims to provide access points and training in several rural settlements across the country.
The WiFi Village initiative (previously known as Login) is promoted by Internet Terjeszteseert Alapitvany (ITA ‐ Foundation for the Diffusion of the Internet). Main target is the population living in poverty conditions in less developed small rural village, of which 80% happen to be Roma. The idea behind the programme is to transfer the experiences of similar programs undertaken in developing country. In this respect it is worth reporting what the President Mr. Nyiro stated “Hungary, as probably other Eastern European countries, have problems that are more similar to those of developing countries than to those of more advanced European countries:

lack of basic access and skills, both of which unfortunately are not sufficiently supported by the European Commission e‐Inclusion policies that are too focussed on eAccessibility and ageing well”.
ITA plays a steering role and outsources all implementation activities to other NGOs and private firms (see more infra), while to some extent the local council in the rural settlements can be considered a partner in the implementation. ITA has many supporting partners in the private sectors, among which the main ones are Intel, Microsoft, T‐com, Ecunet, etc.
Within the framework of WiFi Village, ITA helps young people in rural settlements to get access to the Internet, other than supporting their education, their opportunity to find employment and to organise their community via the possibilities of the Internet. The first pilot was run in 2007 and the full roll out took place in 2008 (115 small rural village provided with PIAP, reaching out 2000 families or 6000 individuals living below the poverty line. Considering only 2008: they aimed at a total of 500 villages identified ex ante as potential target and reached 100), and the initiative is currently ongoing and in full swing.

IMPLEMENTATION AND SELF‐REPORTED RESULTS
ITA built the project concept on the Bottom of the Pyramid approach; the expression refers the development of new models of doing business that deliberately target the bottom of the social pyramid – which is the largest, but poorest socio‐economic group ‐ often using new technology. In the case of WiFi village, ITA’s partners sell recycled desktop PCs under fair trade conditions, for about EUR 80.
Foundations of the participating villages purchase these computers and then resell them to local Romany people under a 4‐month leasing plan. These PCs run Linux and users are trained to use Googleʹs web applications (Gmail, Docs & Spreadsheet). The Internet access is provided via Wi‐Fi network and the entire project is based on the deployment of the latest technologies.

However, providing the network and desktop infrastructure is just the first step: on the long term ITA is planning to provide education and working possibilities. European Roma Forum has declared its full support to the programme in April 2009. Mr. Ivan Ivanov, member of the European Parliament and head of the forum, has highlighted that 10 million Romany people live in Europe, which is more than the number of inhabitants in the whole of Czech Republic, Slovakia or Switzerland. In addition Ms. Katalin Levai, member of the European Parliament, called ITA’s attention on the fact that in the Third World similar initiatives fight against social inequalities with success, while in Europe there are no programmes to assist the access of households to the Internet and PC under fair trade conditions.
The first pilot has already been launched under the WiFi Village programme: ITA installed a wireless network and leased 10 desktop PCs in Tomor village (Borsod county, Hungary). Based on the positive feedback, ITA will extend the pilot in June: in Alsószentmárton village (Baranya county, Hungary) 60 persons have already signed up to the programme. The project is just three months old but the response has been so positive that ITA is currently seeking partners and supporters to extend the programme. They are also planning to base the financing primarily on funds of the European Union, but also expect key players from the IT business to participate.
The target for 2010 is to reach 30,000 through the WiFi initiative and, within that figure, the main target is the population living in poverty conditions in less developed small rural village, of which 80% happen to be Roma. Furthermore, 92% of the end beneficiaries are unemployed, and in 72% of cases the highest level of educational attainment is elementary school diploma.

Please note that, while the end beneficiaries are the villages’ inhabitants, there is an intermediary step in that ITA publishes a call for interests to which the local municipalities have to respond by filling a very simple application form. So the input and request must ultimately come from the council of the small villages. The request is evaluated quickly and, if the village meets the requirements (poverty and unemployment level), ITA sends in the company selected as outsources to settle the infrastructure and provide training courses for the  creation of a new WiFi Village. The figure below illustrates a localisation map of existing WiFi villages throughout Hungary.
A total of 115 small rural villages have been provided with PIAPs, reaching out 2,000 families (6,000 individuals) living below the poverty line. Attempts have been made to export the project trans‐border but they have not succeeded yet.

image

Figure 17: localisation map of existing WiFi Villages in Hungary

Currently, these are the partners co‐operating with ITA on the project – especially on the technology (both in terms of hardware and advisory) aspects of implementation:

•Econet is one of the fastest growing companies of the internet scene in Central Europe. They gave place to the project office, and a stable background for operation.
•Externet was among the first internet service providers in Hungary, they started their business in 1996. They provide internet access and WiFi installation, and they are experts in access topics.
•Hadrianus Computers sells renewed PCs. In the project they offer a special price for the Netbox, they install the software, and they help the project with a lot of innovation.
•Ipsilon Media & Marketing Consultancy is a small and creative media & marketing consultant company, they customized the user interface of the Netbox, and they designed the homepage of the Netbox browser.
•Port.hu is a database company focusing mainly on program guide information. They helped set up the basics of a micro‐loan fund, to finance Netbox purchases at first in Lak.
•Balazs Faa: Mr Faa is a well known designer, working mainly on web based project. He designed the Netbox logo.
•Typoezis Graphic Design Studio is known for their state of the art logos, and offline design. They created the Login logo.
•IQSoft ‐ John Bryce Education Centre donated 10 PC for the project, the PCs will be used by young Romani people in Alsoszentmarton, Southern Hungary

ITA carried out a survey to collect feedback on the outcomes of the project, which has been very well received by the end users. These were some of the results.
Why don’t you have internet at home?
•Too expensive: 80%
•Lack of skills: 22%
•Other: 17%
•Has access elsewhere: 8%
•No need: 3%
•Not useful: 2%
•Not interested: 0%
With regard to this survey question, it is interesting to observe that lack of interest is never a reason for failing to take up on technology.
Why do you participate in WiFi Village?
•Education: 46%
•Good price (affordability): 21%
•Useful: 16%
•Family reasons: 15%
•Entertainment: 1%
With reference to this, we may assume that, if given the opportunity, people tend to welcome the chance to learn and to acquire new skills, and this should serve as a driver for anyone taking action in e‐Inclusion.
Have you looked for a job yet?
•WiFi Village users: 22,5%
•Control group: 7%
Again, the result shows that ICT can be a channel to increase employment or to motivate people to join the labour force.
As ITA is in the process of gathering information in the more structure fashion on the feedback results, here are a few of significant elements of success that were mentioned by Mr. Nagy:
•One guy started to use the Internet and found an old friend through whom he managed to find a 6 month jobs for himself and for other 20 residents of his village (all unemployed) in a construction site for one of the new highways that are being built in Hungary;
•Several users of PIAPs started a secondary eLearning school and were able to complete it and receive a diploma;

•One guy developed a short movie on Roma culture, put it on youtube and it has been watched so far by 90,000 people worldwide.

FUNDING
Total funding raised so far amounts to 1.2 mln Euro for the first year running of the project, which was provided by the following sources:
•Public funding: 1mln cash;
oMinistry of National Development and Economics (main contributor);
oNational Development Agency;
oMinistry of Social Affairs;
oPrime Minister Office, Department of Information and Communication (about 30K Euro);
•Private sector:
o€ 200,000 equivalent of in IT donations from Microsoft (Windows and Office licenses, about 50,000 Euro);
oHungarian Telecom (WiFi infrastructure and provision of Internet connection).
Finally, it is useful to add that the PCs installed in the PIAPs are leased by the municipalities and remain the property of ITA. There are cases, however, where local municipalities provide small amount of micro‐credit for those individuals who whish to buy a PC (they are renewed PC costing on average about € 100). Micro‐credit is granted only to families with at least three members, of which at least one should be unemployed to qualify.

SUCCESS FACTORS
Managerial professionalism and approach of the 6 professionals working in ITA has been vital for the project. They all come from experience in the Private sector (IT, media and Internet, marketing and communication).
ITA is an NGO that is run exactly as a private company, with strategic planning, financial accountability, and quality control. ITA set the strategic priorities, does the fund raising and lobbying, defines a methodology and standards for implementation that are passed onto the NGOs and firms to which the implementation work is outsourced, and then they do monitoring and quality control. They also manage relations with the local council. According to Mr. Nagy such approach and professionalism is not always common in the NGO sector in Hungary.
Previous contacts of the 6 professionals with CSR executives in large private company helped securing support from partners such as Intel, Microsoft, Hungarian Telcom. Reputation and credibility of the President (he was the founder and editor in chief of the Hungarian most successful portal: ask name) was also crucial in securing public funds, despite the lack of any programme of public funding earmarked for e‐Inclusion (please note: the public fund received was not devoted to e‐Inclusion but were “leftover funds” that were not being not used, which Mr. Nyiro convinced the various entities to spend on WiFi Village).

BARRIERS
One of the main barriers is the local council, which in many cases are not keen on engaging in the initiative. There is a frightening lack of awareness as well as organisational and managerial capacity on the side of local councils, which prevents them from applying for the WiFI programme support.
Furthermore, since the disbanding of the Ministry of Informatics in Hungary e‐Inclusion is a ‘bouncing ball’ that public agencies throw at each other thus leaving NGOs practitioners to hop from one office to the other and to re‐package the proposed programme in different ways. Needless to say, this causes a total lack of policy framework and funds for e‐Inclusion.
Possibly, according to Mr. Nyiro , the situation within the European Union and Commission is even worse. DG INFSO has recently focussed on eAccessibility and Ageing Well and there has been no money available for initiatives such as WiFi. Mr. Nyiro presented the project several times to various EC players and he was always bounced back for his initiative did not fit the policy silos structure. First, he was told that WiFi was about infrastructure and so it could not be financed. He then added the training component and asked for economic development funds, but people from that department replied that, in order to help the unemployed, the project would have to be financed within social affairs. Social affairs, on the other hand, told him this was a high‐tech project. So he went for education funds, but he was told that, since his targets are not only adults, he could not apply for Life Long Learning support.

POLICY SUGGESTIONS
The proposed measure to improve the intervention of the EC are straightforwardly related to the previous paragraph.
First, the Commission should remember that in Hungary and other Eastern European countries basic access and digital literacy are still a big issue and should be given more attention and funding.
Second, both for EC and for the Hungarian government there is a need to place e‐Inclusion in a clear policy box or to have at least some horizontal coordination and one single clear reference point where NGOs can present their views, proposals and obtain funding.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

Tech4i2 Ltd:
David Osimo
Annalisa De Luca
Cristiano Codagnone

About sooteris kyritsis

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