No one to Surf in the Wireless Country

World promotion of Macedonia as the first wireless country is overshadowed by the facts regarding the internet users in Macedonia

World promotion of Macedonia as the first wireless country is overshadowed by the facts regarding the internet users in Macedonia. With only 6% of the population using internet Macedonia holds the last place in the region, while on the broader level we can be compared with African development countries. Only 70% of Macedonian citizens have never used internet, and only 28% of all computers are connected on the internet.

The main reason for low level of internet usage is the high costs for this service and for computer equipment. Despite the internet services market is liberalized, other providers cannot be serious competition to the main player Makedonski Telekomunikacii and to decrease the price. Living standard of Macedonian citizens must not be neglected, since with average salary of 200 euros cannot afford 30 euros per month for ADSL internet. When it comes to chose between bread and internet, the choice is obvious.

Other limiting factors for bigger internet penetration are the low level of ICT literacy, above all among elderly people, and lack of content in Macedonian.

Internet is used for sending and checking e-mails and for entertainment. E-banking, online shopping, paying bills and filling in forms via internet and other services are yet to be developed.

Monopoly or Duopoly

In order to increase internet usage level in Macedonia, USAID through its project wirelessly networked all primary and secondary schools in Macedonia. The project was implemented by the internet provider On.net and it will use the wireless network commercially. Civil society organization Internet Macedonia is disappointed from the wireless network. They expected that the wireless network will offer more competitive prices and more quality service than Makedonski Telekomunikacii.

“One of the project’s objective was to create new network, apart for the current one owned by Teelcom, and to offer cheaper internet access thus increasing the number of internet users. Instead of that, On.net’s commercial offer duplicates the Telecom’s one. Our calculations show that 1 GB data transfer in ADSL offer by Telecom cost 413 denars, while 1 GB data transfer in ADSL offer by On.net cost 445 denars. A lot of money were spent, but there is no true liberalisation. Instead of eliminating the monopoly, a duopoly has been established,” said Aleksandar Nikolov, Internet Macedonia.

The Role of the State

With such level of internet usage Macedonia cannot expect fast accession in the EU and integration in information society. Quality and cheap internet access is fundamental for wide access to services and knowledge that provides increased economic development and enhancing the quality of living. Development of information technology and telecommunications is very slow in Macedonia, despite the fact that it is one of the most prosperous and most beneficial.

Members of Internet Macedonia demand the Government and the Parliament to start to implement adopted National Strategy for Development of Information Society immediately.

“The Strategy predicts that providing internet access at favourable price is among key priorities. So far there has been no effect from the document. The Strategy also predicts that state should provide 1 to 1.5% of the total budget for development of information society. In the budget for 2006 there is not such entry. It is left to the ministries to decide upon how the money should be spent, and generally the money are spent for seminars or meetings.

Marjan Blazevski – Sasho Kokalanov
Source: Dnevnik

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