March 26, 2006 § Leave a comment
Budaörs, Hungary – March 21, 2006
The town of Budaörs, Hungary demonstrates the importance of local leadership and vision.
Once a dusty suburb 30 minutes outside Budapest, Budaörs has slowly grown into a high tech hub that is attracting head offices of Hungarian telecom and information technology companies. It is also becoming a leading example of how telecottages can serve as a platform for local governments to engage and support their citizens.
The telecottage that we visited in Budaörs offered all of the services you would expect: computer and Internet access; computer skills training; photocopying. All of these services were offered at a price, with basic Internet access about half the price of cybercafes. However, the municipality has implemented a policy that anyone on local social assistance will receive training and access services for free. They have also provided funding for specialized services aimed at disadvantaged citizens, especially the blind.
In addition to subsidized and special services, the Budaörs telecottage is the first in Hungary to house information society mentors. These are specially trained telecottage staff, with skills in both telecottage management and helping telecottage clients access electronic information and government services. They are a combination of librarian and citizen service agency for the information age.
All of this is a boon for the senior citizens of Budaörs, who are increasingly being left behind. This year e-tax filing becomes mandatory. Also, many local services are moving to electronic delivery. Free access combined with a mentor can help people who don’t feel comfortable with technology to navigate the system.
The transformation into an information technology hub and the creation of vibrant e-services for citizens have been driven by the mayor and the CEO of Budaörs. As I discovered when I met them on the second day of our event, both have personally committed themselves to using information technology to strengthen their community. Looking around their town, it shows.