Hungarian Telecottage Association


!Telecottages in Hungary

contribution at medi@ktiv in Gemeinde und Region - European Rural Development by means of Education - ERDE - september 2003

The birth of a national program, its institutionalization and perspectives

!!1. What is a Telecottage?

o A community and service organization that ensures access to information and communications tools, information and services, provides users professional and trained help and addresses additional local community needs.

o A telecottage can operate in many types of institutions and legal entities (independent institution, library, community house, school, post office), and it is not classifiable in a single service branch or economic sector, but in its own hybrid organization and organizational cooperation.

o The organizational paradigm for Hungarian telecottages that is considered ideal – though not obligatory – places the owner in a civil organization, the host in the local government, and the operator in a private company, while their service contracts incorporate assignments, laws and obligations in an appropriate manner.

!! 2. The Movement’s History in Brief

o 1989-90 – the attention of the state, politics and economics focused on the change in system, while concerns developed about the challenges posed by an information society, civil thinking and free and responsible action.

o 1992 – librarians introduced the telecottage concept, but nothing came of it as the change in system brought on more important and immediate concerns.

o 1994 – The first Hungarian telecottage was established because of a local community development initiative supported by the Ministry of Social Affairs.

o 1995 – The Hungarian Telecottage Association came into existence through private initiative.

o 1997 – USAID supported the first major telecottage program – 30 telecottages and the development of the first National Telecottage Program.

o 1998 – The Ministry for Communications supported the program to establish 40 new telecottages.

o 1999-2000 – the Ministry for Regional Development joined the movement, and other branch telecottage programs (social, employment) were developed. In addition, the National Telecottage Strategy was completed and 120 new telecottages were established.

o 2001 – With the support of the Government Commissioner’s Office for ICT, telecottages appeared for the first time in the national information society strategy, and telecottage numbers doubled, resulting in 200 new telecottages.

o 2002 – the realization of community access is introduced into the National Program, but the terminology of telecottages was forced into the background, as was the decision about doubling telecottage numbers with an additional 4-500 telecottages (their establishment postponed until 2003)

o 2003 – telecottages have reclaimed (hopefully) their decisive role in achieving community access, cooperation agreements have been worked out with government entities and have been involved in the comprehensive institutionalization plan for the National Development Plan

!! 3. Where we stand now and perceivable impacts

o In 2003 telecottage and telehut numbers will close in on 1000, meaning that about 40% of small settlements will have telecottages or its equivalent community access point. According to plans, the network should be completed by 2006 at the latest.

o 84% of the nation’s settlements have fewer than 3000 residents, and roughly 2500 settlements of this type have 2.5 million inhabitants. Therefore the community access points will serve 1 million people.

o Called upon to improve quality of life and build opportunities, the most common services are: school study and training, entertainment, job aid and completion, official business consultation, social services and shopping.

o There is a perceptible rise in computer and home-internet use in the telecottage settlements, and community accessibility has both increased and helped satisfy demand.

o At their present extent, the telecottages help create access to public services and in official matters, because the smallest 1500 settlements have no mayor’s office.

o Local institutions – primarily community centers – are being (re)organized on a civil basis, and in the telecottage settlements new social organizations are coming into being, strengthening civil life, public transparency and democracy, as well as local social capital.

o Currently about 1000 people work in the telecottage network as their main profession and have made their telecottage work their new profession. At least 2-3000 local volunteers also help run services.

o Telecottage directors increasingly get into local government bodies and their political role is increasing. These conditions have helped make the earlier autocratic practice of governance become more community-oriented in the telecottage settlements.

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