What is the internet for?

December 18, 2005 § Leave a comment

Seattle, USA

After a nice brisk walk, Matayas Gaspar sat me down to look at a website. At the top of the page was a very basic question: what is the Internet for?


The site was developed by Matayas and his colleagues to provide resources for a new class of knowledge worker that is emerging in Hungary – the IT Mentor. IT Mentors help people use the Internet as a part of their daily lives. To navigate government better. To find jobs. To help with cooking and domestic tasks. These may seem like easy things to do for the Internet savvy, but they’re foreign (and unknown) options for people who are just learning that the web exists.


Starting next year, IT Mentors will become an official employment category in Hungary. That means that public agencies can hire and fund them. So, the Ministry of Health might hire a cadre of IT Mentors to help people coming into telecottages effectively access online health information. In order to fill the expected demand, there will be a university run certification program for IT Mentors. It will train 300 people in the first year.

This approach to getting the grassroots online is a fascinating one. Part of the fascination is in the idea of IT Mentor as ‘human interface’ to the Internet (of course, we see similar ideas in telecentres around the world). But the interest also flows from the level of rigour and organization that has gone into making the IT Mentor real. Impressive.


It’ll be interesting to get to know the Hungarian approach more, and also to hook up with Mataya’s colleagues in EUTA. It looks like we’ll have a chance to do this in March or April next year.

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