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Introduction. The formation of the Hungarian Information Society in the last ten years

Róbert Sinka
p. 7-20

Résumés

La Hongrie a été l’un des initiateurs du changement face à la dépendance soviétique et en termes de démocratisation de l’Europe centrale et orientale. Le rideau de fer abattu en 1989 a ouvert le pays au monde. La confortable protection a été soudainement remplacée par les nouveaux défis de la mondialisation de l’économie et de la culture. La constitution de la société de l’information pourrait en constituer l’un de ces changements les plus radicaux. Le présent article étudie les succès et les échecs du développement de la société de l’information en Hongrie lors de la dernière décennie, sur la base du rapport de recherche (MITJ, 2008) préparé par ITTK (Information Society and Trend Research Centre <http://ittk.hu/english/index.html>)

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Introduction

1The last ten years of the Hungarian Information Society is difficult to be presented in a single volume, not only because a number of successful developments and innovative projects should be introduced, but also due to the obligation to analyse the reasons why others have not been completed. Among the reasons both typically Eastern-Central European and within these Hungarian characteristics can be found.

2Similarly to the Eastern-Central European countries, for instance, Hungary is also characterized by lateness, the duplication of Western patterns, low-grade consciousness, and by the imperfection of the institutional background in the projects aiming at the forming of the information society. The Hungarian feature mainly mirrors itself in sabotaged strategies, missed opportunities and lasting subsidence. This discontinuous development, which lasts up to the present as well, is also reflected by other papers published in this volume.

Information society politics - “The country of sabotaged strategies”1

  • 1 This review is based on the research report made by the research team of BME-UNESCO Information Soc (...)
  • 2 The country isolated by the iron curtain was not economically and socially ready for either the adv (...)

3In 1989, when the world’s developed countries started to work for the forming of the information society, Hungary was engaged in the changing of the regime. The political and economic reorganization of the country, the elimination of the Soviet dependence, the “re-democratization” of the country gave just enough problems for the new leaders to solve, hence global processes were paid hardly any attention2.

  • 3 Such documents are, for instance: National Information Strategy 1995, e-Hungary 1999. Theses on inf (...)

4Naturally, technical materials have been prepared that centred round the topic of the information society3, nonetheless, the first strategy accepted by the government to be realized was born only in 2001.

  • 4 The Government Committee of Information Science set up within the Prime Minister’s Office strived t (...)

5The National Information Strategy (Nemzeti Információs Stratégia, NITS 2001) prepared in 2001 was the first independent country strategy4. The realization was carried out within the frame of the then official national development plan of the country (Széchenyi Program). The elaboration of the programs was greatly promoted by the eEurope program that appeared at that time, despite the fact that these did not really fit together.

6In 2002, however, the situation was different again. The new government determined new directions. This, fortunately, did not mean a step back, but resulted in the revaluation of the topic. The Ministry of Information Science and Telecommunication was set up, and so was the Bureau of Government Information Science and Social Connections (from 2004 on, the latter operated as Electronic Government Centre). The information society strategy of the country was rephrased and thought over based on the fear of the deepening of the digital gap. According to the government, the country became heavily handicapped in Europe, and the enduring fallback of some social groups was presumable.

7The Hungarian Information Society Strategy (Magyar Információs Társadalom Stratégia - MITS, 2003) accepted in October, 2003 determined the direction of development for the following 10-15 years, and most of the outlined programs were put in action in the spring of 2004. The aims and program of MITS corresponded to the eEurope strategy, which gave real energy to joining the European programs (e.g. IST, eContent, eSafety etc.). This was the period during which the development of the Hungarian Information Society flourished. Programs were put in action that could have become the basis of, and could even have determined the forming of a modern, European-standard Hungarian Information Society. Although the programs of the Ministry indicated extreme technological determinism (e.g. Sulinet (Schoolnet) 1997, National Broad Band Program 2002, Sulinet (Schoolnet) Express Program 2003), they undoubtedly created the technological basis of the information society, constructed the basic infrastructure on which the social programs could have been built.

8Despite the fact that the government consolidated power in 2006, the Ministry of Information Science and Telecommunication merged into the Ministry of Economy and Transport, which led to the total negligence of the information society strategy and its related programs. Nowadays the continuous erosion and political devaluation of the results reached so far can be witnessed. The future direction of development has been relegated to the characters of the weak, globally exposed Hungarian economy suffering from shortage of capital, as well as to civilians.

9To sum up in brief, the last decade of the Hungarian Information Society (MITJ, 2008) can mainly be described by:

  • the prolonged production of documents and strategy,

  • the copying and the lack of originality in setting the aims,

  • not-harmonized everyday work,

  • the lack of consensus related to the political spectrum,

  • the institutionalization of the organizational conflicts,

  • the low priority of the area,

  • and the constant lack of resources for the operation.

10With the help of a technological jump, Hungary had the opportunity to belong to the midfield of the European Union, making use of its lateness (Table 1.). The country, however, has not been able to take advantage of this opportunity so far, and today, in 2009, the political and economic decision-makers are concerned with different problems again. The private sector and the civilian movements are not strong enough to initiate drastic changes.

Table 1: The strategic documents of the Hungarian information society

The strategic documents of the Hungarian information society

1995

National Information Strategy (NIS)

1999

Hungarian Answer to the challenges of the Information Society

2000

Theses on the Information Society

2000

Hungarian Information Charter

2000-2001

Information chapters of the Széchenyi Program

2001

National Information Society Strategy (NITS)

2001

NITS Electronic Government Program (EKP)

2003

Hungarian Information Society Strategy (MITS)

2003

eGovernment 2005 Strategy and Program Plan

Robert Sinka

The infrastructure of the information society

  • 5 This solution is mainly chosen by people who cannot pay the fixed monthly fees for a service any mo (...)

11Multi-participants appeared in the Hungarian telecommunication market only following the change of the regime (1989). The scarce distribution and technical standard of wire networks needed comprehensive changes, so the opening of the telecommunication market made the creation of modern wire networks possible at the turn of the century. The growth of the wire penetration, however, began to stagnate at the turn of the century, and mobile services were gradually taking over. The number of homes only with mobile subscription is increasing5.

  • 6 Hungary has been participating in the WIP project since 2001, participating institutions are Inform (...)
  • 7 The lack of interest can be traced back to deeper reasons. Such are, for example, the deficiencies (...)

12The computer and internet penetration gained impetus in the middle of the 1990s, only after the building of the major main line networks. Today, in half (49%) of the Hungarian homes we can find a computer, and in almost one-third of them (35%) an internet connection, too (WIP, 2007)6. The use of a computer is entwined also with the use of the internet, namely the broadband internet. The people who do not use the internet do so primarily because of disinterest rather than due to financial reasons. According to surveys, less and less people lack internet due to material or financial reasons, instead, reluctance because of disinterest, indifference and the lack of digital literacy is typical (WIP, 2007). In the future, the Hungarian content providers, the people in economy and public administration are to produce contents that address even the now uninterested social layers7.

13The rearrangement of the wire and mobile market might as well be seen as positive, but the decrease in the number of the wire lines is typical for the less rather than the more developed regions, primarily due to financial reasons. This also means that in the undeveloped regions there is little chance for improving the internet based services, which makes the digital gap even deeper, and finally contributes to the fallback of the given region.

  • 8 The country is constituted by 3135 villages or towns. 64.6 % of the population lives in towns, 30% (...)
  • 9 “In November, 2008, the commissioner for Information of the Prime Minister’s Office made a proposal (...)

14Studying settlement geographical (ekistics) aspects also leads to distinctive features. Broadband internet, for instance, can typically be accessed easily only in towns in high quality. Broadband access is still unimaginable in about 20% of the country8. In villages with less than 3000 residents, the population coverage does not reach 60%, and in more than 700 villages broadband infrastructure is completely non-existent9.

  • 10 Due to the lack of infrastructure and skilled workforce there are less and less projects, as a cons (...)

15All in all, it can be said that rural areas are in a disadvantageous situation. A significant proportion of villages are incapable of financing the infrastructural developments or providing capital for those. If they still invest using a tender, it does not automatically mean that the number of subscribers in the village increases. Most enterprises find better opportunities in towns: they follow the market and the skilled work-force. Rural areas get into a descending spiral10.

16The low number of residents in small villages often does not even allow for the maintenance of fundamental services and institutions, however, it is obvious that schools, post offices, communal houses, or telehouses are all stages of innovation. The systematic elimination of these networks led to the demolition of the modernization chances of little villages (Kék notesz, 2009).

The e-public administration

  • 11 In 2003-2004, almost 80% of those working in administration worked regularly with a computer, and 7 (...)

17Data have been recorded since 1996 about what types of ICT devices are accessible in public administration. The most striking difference from the developed industrial countries is that in Hungary it was not the service and trading sector that led the digital revolution but administration11. In addition, there was hardly any electronic service on the client side.

  • 12 The most successful projects were Ügyfélkapu (Client-gate) and making e-taxation compulsory. In Hun (...)

18In the period between 2003 and 2006, the basic infrastructure of e-public administration was essentially created. Not only significant infrastructural projects were realized, but also the related procedural, legal bases were created, as well as those of standards. In this process, an important role was played by the e-Government 2005 Strategy and Program Plan accepted in 2004 (eKormányzat, 2005). The program plan followed the EU proposals and created the bases of the e-government infrastructure. The shady side is that, simultaneously to this, no reformations in administration were carried out, the state did not become more transparent or client-oriented. The latter has been only attempted by the e-Public administration 2010 Strategy12.

19The years 2007-2008 were the period of socializing the e-public administration. “Client-centred, high service quality e-services are placed in the foreground, i.e. services adaptable for every single client, as well as the encouragement of efficiency and effectiveness for the sake of accelerating a competitive society and economy, making use of the opportunities in web2.0 applications, and for the benefit of encouraging all these, the modernization of the processes on the service side.” (MITJ, 2008).

  • 13 This is also indicated by the great number of e-tax returns, and the number of users registered by (...)

20Unfortunately, at present the e-public administration has no political representative who would build on the bases laid down so far. The implementation of the project stopped, although, based on the data and in spite of the low internet penetration, the electronic public administration could be a propulsive industry13.

  • 14 The complete online accessibility to the Hungarian e-public administration services reached EU aver (...)
  • 15 The use of Ügyfélkapu (Client-gate) is in strong correlation with the GDP of the area. The lower th (...)

21To sum up, it can be said that, although Hungary started to lay down the bases for the e-public administration later than some more developed regions of the EU, it soon made up lost ground (2003-2006) and jumped in the midfield of the EU14. The development, however, began to slow down. The reformation of administration is delayed, the e-government refers essentially to the digitalization of public administration processes. In addition to the technical aspects, however, little attention has been paid to the economic and social effects of the service. The e-Public administration 2010 Strategy accepted in 2008 is planning the introduction of new, integrated services to allow that the supplying institutions of public administration can appear on a uniform surface on the Ügyfélkapu (Client-gate)15.

Education – before change of paradigm

  • 16 E.g. Bologna Process.
  • 17 Children have to learn two or three times as many data, names, dates and terms today as thirty year (...)

22The Hungarian education system followed the classical, in its contents and methods rather formal, Prussian traditions for a long time, where information was primarily conveyed frontally. Schools tried to make students acquire more and more information, which became increasingly difficult, almost impossible for the students. Before the changing of regime, and from then on, too, the education system is constantly being reconstructed. Unfortunately, most of these meant purely structural changes, only few concerned problems of contents and methodology16. Since the 1960s the same contents have been taught in the same way, and in the meantime the changing of regime led to a radical deterioration of teaching prestige and existential conditions. It is true, however, that teachers did not use to be paid much better than skilled workers, still, their social prestige was much higher and they were far more respected. This issue is of unique significance because education is one of the most important elements of the forming of the information society17.

  • 18 Methodological renewal can only be seen in isolated examples even today. One such possibility is to (...)

23Schools are one of the most suitable locations where ICT devices do not only improve penetration indicators, but facilitate the application of new teaching methods, resulting in a higher digital literacy of both teachers and students. These effects might even reach over school bounderies: creating citizens who consciously take advantage of modern technology, look for services relying on the new technologies and make use of their advantages18.

ICT in the educational process

  • 19 This was complemented by the modification of the National Core Curriculum (Nemzeti Alaptanterv, NAT (...)
  • 20 The main obstacle to this was the preparedness of teachers. We face similar problems now, too. Trai (...)

24Introducing ICT devices into the educational process is not a new idea, this started relatively early, regarding Hungarian conditions. By a government program from 1997, schools gradually became connected to the internet, and also the first computers appeared19. Then, students and teachers primarily saw a PC only in computer science classes. The most important aim was to get to know the basic applications and functionality of the device. The teaching and equipment of computer science classes was significantly different from the contents of other subjects. Computers in the teaching of other subjects were seen as futuristic rather than realistic20.

  • 21 This was also supported by the Informatics development program of public education in 2005, includi (...)

25It was not educational programs or e-learning methodology that needed the most attention, but the constant modernization of the devices due to their fast amortization21.

  • 22 The degree of ICT equipment of classrooms is low. In Hungary, 61% of elementary institutions have n (...)
  • 23 Source of data: Benchmarking Access and Use of ICT in European Schools 2006 – Final Report from Hea (...)

26Nowadays it can be said that informatics is present, however, it is still underused in education. Most teachers (and parents) still prefer books. Although a considerable proportion of teachers would be ready to apply ICT devices in classes, they do not receive either devices or methodological support for this22. Thus, the application of ICT is 18.5% (teaching outside the computer room) at places where ICT devices appear at all in classes, compared to the 61.4% EU average23.

Internet culture – mass culture and subculture

  • 24 Estimates suggest that about 5 million Hungarians live outside Hungary. About 3 million Hungarians (...)

27The digital culture in Hungary has developed from nothing, and addresses those interested with ever broadening, creative and up-to-date contents. Due to the history, language and little population of the country, the created contents also play a role in holding together the Hungarian dispersion24.

28The Hungarian internet culture has developed in four phases. During the first phase (1990-1995) even operation proved to be a challenge. In reality, this phase started much earlier, still, its defining starting date is 1990, because the first Hungarian nameserver (.hu) began to operate then, in Amsterdam.

29The main feature of the second phase (1995-2000) is the slow but sure growth. It is more and more natural for a firm or a person to be found online as well. Among the constantly growing number of sites one of the most important digital sources so far is born: the Hungarian Electronic Library (Magyar Elektronikus Könyvtár, MEK, <http://www.mek.iif.hu>). Then the online culture is filled primarily with digitalized offline elements. It was also this period when digitalization was flourishing. The quality pages made then were expected to be quickly downloadable, because internet used to be expensive and slow at that time. This is the reason why “internet culture after midnight” emerged, since phone was the cheapest then.

  • 25 The creation of Freemail was part of the program of Soros Foundation that aimed at facilitating the (...)

30The Sulinet (Schoolnet) program, serving as the basis of the development, helped more and more people get to know the digital culture (1997), and the country’s first free mail service, Freemail (<http://freemail.hu>) was introduced, too25. Together with the mail services, the free newsletters also appeared. One of them was the INFINIT Newsletter, which started on 16th March, 1999, the newsletter of the Information Society- and Trend Research Centre, and which published news and analyses in Hungarian about the widely interpreted information society (<http://www.infinit.hu>). The massive spread of digital culture is also shown by the first open, self-improving net movement of the country, like, since the spring of 1999, Startlap (Startpage) (<http://startlap.hu>), which is essentially a collection of links, and is the most frequently visited site of Hungary even today.

31The third phase (2000-2004) is essentially the flourishing of Hungarian Web 1.0. The internet became slowly but surely cheaper, and the number of users increased rapidly to create a mass. Further devices of digital culture (digital camera, scanner, printer, mobile telephone etc.) became easily available, and through this, also mass-like in this period. More pressure was placed on the non-users, on those staying away from the effects of the digital culture, now they are expected to adapt to the requirements of the age of information.

32The fourth phase (from 2004 up to now) is the beginning of becoming the culture of majority. Its most significant feature is the spread of broad band accessibility. The number of visits to websites and the quantity of accessible contents are radically increasing26. Hungarian public sites appear (IWIW, <http://iwiw.hu/​>), and a growing number of Hungarian entries are included in Wikipedia (<http://hu.wikipedia.org/​>).

33The early period of digital culture made the existing social differences even greater, creating a gap between users and non-users. It might change somewhat in the near future, because internet accessible with mobile devices (3G), together with digital television allow masses of people to access contents and services that have been accessible only via computers so far, excluding those who have stayed away from the web or PC due to financial reasons or disinterest.

  • 27 90% of homes with internet have a broad band internet access. (WIP, 2007, <http://www.ithaka.hu/Let (...)
  • 28 Three-quarters of the population over the age of 16 do not speak any foreign languages, thus they v (...)

34The past ten years of the Hungarian online culture is a success both from quantitative and qualitative aspect. The number of users, of broad band internet access at home, and the penetration level of ICT devices have considerably increased27. In the beginning, contents serving business and the university sector became multi-faceted and more user-centred. It is true that the lack of foreign language skills of the population also contributes to this28.

35Among the internet users the most frequent activities are still e-mailing (84%), searching for information and playing games (75%). Among the latest communication forms the IP-based phoning or chatting attracts few users today.

36The Hungarian online space is not big, yet it affects the traditional media (TV, radio, written press). On the one hand it requires them to be more and more intensively present in the virtual space, on the other hand it takes away time for itself. Another peculiarity of online media is that some of them created a monopoly, the 5 busiest news sites, for example, maintain the absolute leading position with respect to how often they are visited. The situation of public sites is similar as well. The Hungarian internet users primarily visit these sites. It is practically impossible to introduce a similarly oriented new site.

Equality of chances – digital divide

37The use of ICT devices can generally be defined as an advantage for all members of society, however, there are social groups for which it is not only advantage but also the one and only possibility. For them work or online transactions carried out from home is not a question of convenience. Equality of chances in Hungary is a social and economic question in one. Recently, not sufficient but at least considerable advancement has been experienced mostly in the situation of handicapped groups with respect to origin, financial situation and type of settlement (MITJ, 2008).

  • 29 The index determining the exclusion in the order of weight: the most determining is age and the lea (...)

38Age and qualification play an important role in dividing people (digital divide) today, too. Exclusion mostly affects those over 50, those with at most elementary school qualification, those with low income, those living in rural areas and women29.

39In information society strategies problems related to the equality of chances have always been stressed, since the exclusion from the use of ICT devices leads to a handicap both in education and on the labour market. All this influences the economic efficiency of the country to a great extent. Real action programs, however, did not in all cases follow the strategic documents.

40In the beginning, the thought of equality of chances and of e-inclusion appears only as a secondary effect of the information society – primarily relating to the social and health problems of the aging population and to supporting the underdeveloped areas. (National Information Strategy 1995) Recent documents show exclusion as a real threat in deepening the gap between social groups (Hungarian Answer to the challenges of the Information Society 1999). The relation of employment, work culture and exclusion has been discussed in several documents, primarily from economic point of view (Theses on the Information Society – TIT, 2000, Hungarian Information Charter – MIC, 2000).

  • 30 The best-known and completed programs are Sulinet (Schoolnet) Express and Közháló (Public Net) Prog (...)

41The most accurately worked-out strategy, which, as a sub-strategy, included another sub-strategy of equality of chances, was MITS (MITS, 2003). The program related to the strategy had three major elements: the training of IT mentors, e-Device and e-Chance. IT-mentors assisted the handicapped, the elderly, the unemployed and the tzigane, among others, in using the internet and in electronic transactions. The e-Device program supported the access of the handicapped to ICT devices and to the internet. Its third important element was e-Chance, i.e. equality of chances in the information society, which decreases the existing social and economic differences, geographic and inherited handicaps30 (MITJ, 2008).

42Among the actual programs related to equality of chances, the New Hungary Improvement Plan can be mentioned, which states that “One of the basic conditions for the social participation of our handicapped fellow-creatures is the physical and infocommunicational accessibility” (ÚMFT, 2007).

43In the Social Infrastructure Operative Program (Társadalmi Infrastruktúra Operatív Program, TIOP, 2007-2013), only keywords are presented, such as, for instance, e-Equality of chances, infocommunication accessibility, and the recognition that social politics tried to solve the problem of securing the equality of chances of handicapped citizens with solutions maintaining the present state, with passive methods (allowances and other kind of payment) in the short run. In order to find a real solution, it is indispensable that the government, the economy and the civilian population join together.

  • 31 Due to the economic crisis in 2008, hardly any central sources can be expected for this purpose in (...)

442008 was the year of e-Inclusion in Hungary as well. The outlined political documents – one-by-one and also as a whole –, aimed at eliminating the factors inhibiting e-Inclusion. In Hungary, it is the low employment rate and the lack of digital literacy that are the main obstacles due to which a completely accepting information society cannot be built based on the application of infocommunication technologies. The efficient implementation of programs is delayed by the fact that the population of Hungary is aging, hence the consideration of the needs of the aging population has been defined as a priority within all projects related to e-Inclusion31.

45At present there live almost 4 million people over the age of 50 in Hungary. 16 per cent of this generation uses the internet, the ratio of regular users (who use it at least once a week) among them is almost 60 per cent. The profile of a typical internet user over 50 is strikingly similar to that of a typical (average) internet user: has higher education, is employed and mentally active, lives in a household together with several people, has high income; hence using the internet at an older age is typically influenced by these factors in Hungary. The sex of the internet user does not significantly affect the use of the internet32 (Inforum, 2008).

The decade of e-economy and e-trade

46During the past ten years information proved to be as basic an infrastructure in Hungary as the network of public utilities or public roads. Nevertheless, owning ICT devices is not an advantage for an enterprise in itself, it merely forms the basis of the operation of the firm, by which it may become more competitive.

  • 33 OECD Information Technology Outlook 2006
  • 34 It is not by chance that foreign firms come to Hungary. One reason is that a number of Hungarian fi (...)

47Hungary joined in the infocommunication revolution later, but it did not really make use of this point of vantage – jumping to the most modern technology. Hungary takes the last but one position among the OECD countries with respect to ICT projects33. This unwillingness to invest can be said to be general. Neither companies nor the population spend much on ICT devices. Most of the IT expenditure under the EU average (about 620 euro/person) originates in the capital and in its direct agglomeration. The pressing dominance of the capital is also indicated by the fact that the inhabitancy of the majority of Hungarian and foreign firms can be found there. This is true even if the firm originally belongs to the countryside. The following statement holds for information services as well: “If you do not have an office in Budapest, then you do not exist!”34.

48The Hungarian companies adapt the business web models and technologies with a typically 2-3 year delay (in the case of firms with less than 50 employees). Although big companies react faster, most company homepages can be said to be static, which is accounted for by undeveloped ICT use by the population: “Why improve if there is no trading area?”

49The structure of the inland trading area is rather malformed. It can be stated that, since 20-30 pages generate almost 90% of the daily downloads on the Hungarian web, the first to enter the market “takes all”.

  • 35 In October 2007, about 1800 legal webstores were in operation. (GKIeNET, 2007)
  • 36 Data from 2006. This proportion in the EU is 1.06-1.07%.

50The issue of online stores is similar, too. The Hungarian webstores have dynamically grown lately, but growth is significantly delayed by the fact that Hungarians dislike shopping in the internet35. Although types of online shopping (auction pages, buying airplane tickets, reserving accommodation etc.) are rapidly widening, they still hardly reach 0.8-0.9% of retail trade36.

  • 37 The modification of the law (law CLXIV. from year 2005) on electronic trade abolished the obligatio (...)

51The operation of webstores is also hindered by the complicated legal regulations. Until 2006, there had been no central regulation and technical forum in this field, which led to closing down a lot of stores. Up to 2007, regulations had practically treated electronic trade as mail order. Following from this, each e-trader had to maintain business-premises even if only digital products were traded with37.

Legal regulation of the information society

52A good number of elements of the regulation – law of conveying news, media, copyright, inalienable rights, right to protect personal assets etc. – had already existed in the Hungarian legal system. The technological and communication revolution of the 1990s, however, created several unregulated areas, so the foundation of the legal regulation of the information society had to be laid then as well.

  • 38 Law C from year 2003 on electronic conveying of news.
  • 39 Government act 1021/2005. (III. 10) on primary government tasks concerning the conversion to ground (...)

53The most radical changes have been made in the law of conveying news, which was trying to follow the principles of the European regulation38. The other significant change has affected the law of media, including new factors such as supervising digital television and media regulation. The importance of digital television is that, being the leading medium, television may become the most effective alternative end point (using internet) besides computers. This way, social groups can be involved in the information society that have stayed away from the web due to disinterest or reluctance towards the PC. Legal regulation started in 2005, and in 2007 the law was passed on the conversion to the Hungarian digital broadcasting39.

  • 40 Law LXIII. From year 1992 on the protection of personal data and accessibility of public data, and (...)

54One of the positive effects of the mass-like application of ICT both in public and in private life is that citizens are more and more conscious about protecting personal data and having access to public data. Both are fundamental constitutional rights, and they were first brought under legal regulation in 1992, followed by a number of European legal harmonization modifications40. The regulation of data protection related to electronic conveying of news is also connected to this, one important element of which is the creation of the “parliamentary commissioner for administration” model. The success of the model is indicated by the fact that the social consciousness has considerably increased in this field, which is also shown by the number and content of questions put to the commissioner.

  • 41 Law LXXVI. From year 1999 on copyright.

55Concerning the legal regulation of the information society, the most burning question in Hungary is that of copyrights41. The act was made considering both international and European recommendations. The issue is relevant again and again because the present regulation is extraordinarily strict, taking it word for word makes the free flow of information allowed by the new technologies hardly possible. Nowadays this especially holds for libraries, where masses of online contents are being prepared developed for the new media; their presentation, publication, however, violates the rules regulating copyrights at a number of points. Further modifications are presumably to be expected in this field.

56The electronic publication of notes and books used in higher education, for example, is not regulated. Suggestions have been made at several technical forums about including the price of complementary materials used in higher education in the training cost. Through this, a student would also pay the royalties, and, at the same time, the most important textbooks would be available for him/her both on paper and in an electronic version. At present, this idea is rejected since it would increase the training costs, and the given institution might become less attractive. Today some students buy the notes, complementary materials, while others photocopy them. Therefore, authors receive only a fraction of the royalty, thus they become disinterested in publishing their technical and academic work in the form of university of college notes.

Conclusion

57Apart from the successful events of the past ten years it can be said that the forming of the information society in Hungary is not absolutely successful. The country proceeded on a rather contradictory, imperfect and discontinuous path during this period. The institutional system is not complete either vertically or horizontally, furthermore, the political changes swept away all the earlier results, even if the leaders remained the same. The country has taken a giant step forward in creating the basic infrastructure, however, happy with the technological change, improvements often come to a stop, sometimes for years. In the era of information this luxury is disallowable.

58Incontrovertible is the fact that the infocommunication technology has spread in Hungary, it has become an integral part of academic life, of education and of corporation culture. The increasingly client-centred solutions of e-public administration considerably raise the degree of democratization.

59In the educational system, the basic infrastructure has successfully been created, and a set of adequate devices has been implemented owing to several programs. The methodological renewal of education and the changing of paradigm by teachers are still to be awaited, just like the sources allowing device amortization.

60At present, Hungarian culture seems to split into two with respect to the traditional and to the digital culture. In spite of this, it is positive that more and more digital contents appear with improving quality, and the number of the users of online contents is increasing as well. Internet and computers hardly ever imply subculture any more.

61Although digital divide is getting smaller, those on the “wrong side” get few chances for change, and, for some social groups, it is nearly impossible to step over the gap. The elderly and the undereducated are still most heavily handicapped. National strategies have so far been unable to handle this situation. The involvement and cooperation of economy and civilians is incidental for the present.

62E-economy has not proved to be a point of breakthrough for the country. Although Hungary is famous for its world-standard training of engineers, this advantage does not lead to profit for the country yet. A further problem is that a weak inland market should be turned into a competitive economy.

63One of the most successful areas in the last decade is the issue of legal regulation. Following the European legal harmonization process, the legal regulation of almost all areas has been completed. Nevertheless, life goes on, which means that digital television and its related modern content services generate uncovered areas again.

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Bibliographie

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Notes

1 This review is based on the research report made by the research team of BME-UNESCO Information Society and Trend Research Centre (BME-ITTK), as well as by the researchers of GKIeNET and MTA Info-communication Judicial Centre (jointly with the technical assistance of BellResearch, Tárki and ITHAKA), (MITJ, 2008).

2 The country isolated by the iron curtain was not economically and socially ready for either the advantages or the challenges and dangers of global economy.

3 Such documents are, for instance: National Information Strategy 1995, e-Hungary 1999. Theses on information society 2000, Hungarian answer to the challenges of information society, working paper 1999, Hungarian Information Charter 2000.

4 The Government Committee of Information Science set up within the Prime Minister’s Office strived to provide institutional background for the realization.

5 This solution is mainly chosen by people who cannot pay the fixed monthly fees for a service any more.

6 Hungary has been participating in the WIP project since 2001, participating institutions are Information Society and Trend Research Centre operating at Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME-ITTK), moreover Information Society and Network Research Centre (ITHAKA), and TÁRKI Society Research Co.

7 The lack of interest can be traced back to deeper reasons. Such are, for example, the deficiencies of Hungarian education, the low ICT competence of teachers, the lack of electronic learning materials, the small number of ICT devices applied in vocational training and in-service trainings (Sinka, 2007).

8 The country is constituted by 3135 villages or towns. 64.6 % of the population lives in towns, 30% in villages and farms. The image is distorted by the fact that 40% of the urban residents live in the capital. (Magyarország.hu: <http://www.magyarorszag.hu/orszaginfo/adatok/tarsadalom/telepulesszerkezet.html>, last reach: 15. 06. 2009).

9 “In November, 2008, the commissioner for Information of the Prime Minister’s Office made a proposal on the creation of a digital optical public utility. This aims at the creation under government control of a physical infrastructure that makes the services of a modern optical main line network accessible at settlement and home level in the period of 18 months.” (Kék notesz, 2009).

10 Due to the lack of infrastructure and skilled workforce there are less and less projects, as a consequence of which the number of workplaces is decreasing, the young leave the country, the population is getting older and decreasing in number. In the villages of old, unskilled residents nobody wants to invest, banks do not issue loans either for building or for enterprises.

11 In 2003-2004, almost 80% of those working in administration worked regularly with a computer, and 70% of the institutions had internet access. In the case of local governments, the situation was worse, then only 25% of them had access to internet.

12 The most successful projects were Ügyfélkapu (Client-gate) and making e-taxation compulsory. In Hungary, the daily record was 345,000 tax returns, which means 26,249 electronically submitted tax returns every hour.

13 This is also indicated by the great number of e-tax returns, and the number of users registered by Ügyfélkapu (Client-gate).

14 The complete online accessibility to the Hungarian e-public administration services reached EU average between 2004 and 2006.

15 The use of Ügyfélkapu (Client-gate) is in strong correlation with the GDP of the area. The lower the GDP of a given region is, the less registration is made.

16 E.g. Bologna Process.

17 Children have to learn two or three times as many data, names, dates and terms today as thirty years ago. Besides, teachers still prefer frontal teaching methods instead of collaborative project methods, which, they say, is due to the great number of students in a class and to the heavy teaching load.

18 Methodological renewal can only be seen in isolated examples even today. One such possibility is to introduce an e-learning framework into education, proving that even students thought to be passive can be made interested in learning. (Holczer, 2007; Sinka, 2007).

19 This was complemented by the modification of the National Core Curriculum (Nemzeti Alaptanterv, NAT), which now also included methodological proposals, as well as the Sulinet (Schoolnet) Program, with the aim of applying informatics in education. Later this became the basis for Sulinet (Schoolnet) Express, which supported the purchase of ICT devices with tax allowances for private persons.

20 The main obstacle to this was the preparedness of teachers. We face similar problems now, too. Trainers can be trained almost exclusively with the help of isolated development projects. Qualified teachers approach the application of ICT devices differently. Some of them are not even informed about this possibility during their studies!

21 This was also supported by the Informatics development program of public education in 2005, including the acquisition of equipment and software needed for school administration. This process relies primarily on different programs also later: TIOP (Social Infrastructure Operative Program), TÁMOP (Social Renewal Operative Program).

22 The degree of ICT equipment of classrooms is low. In Hungary, 61% of elementary institutions have no access to internet. In spite of this, 85% of teachers have some elementary ICT competence, which they acquired in various teacher training programs, and which can be built on.

23 Source of data: Benchmarking Access and Use of ICT in European Schools 2006 – Final Report from Head Teacher and Classroom Teacher Surveys in 27 European Countries. On behalf of the European Committee, in collaboration with “empirica Gesellschaft für Kommunikations und Technologieforschung mBH” and “TNS Emor” <http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/eeurope/i2010/docs/studies/final_report_3.pdf>

24 Estimates suggest that about 5 million Hungarians live outside Hungary. About 3 million Hungarians live on the areas of neighbouring countries (Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia). The Hungarian population consists of 10 million people (2009).

25 The creation of Freemail was part of the program of Soros Foundation that aimed at facilitating the inland introduction and spread of internet. The service industry that emerged on the market in the meantime and the development of infrastructure made the participation of the civil organization unnecessary, thus Freemail got to Origo portal on 30th June, 1999.

26 Partial data: MEDIAN WebAudit service <http://www.webaudit.hu/webaudit.ivy>

27 90% of homes with internet have a broad band internet access. (WIP, 2007, <http://www.ithaka.hu/Letoltheto>, last reach: 29th June, 2009).

28 Three-quarters of the population over the age of 16 do not speak any foreign languages, thus they visit only the Hungarian contents. (Social situation 2005, KSH <http://portal.ksh.hu/pls/ksh/docs/hun/xftp/idoszaki/pdf/tarshelykep2005.pdf>, last reach: 29th June, 2009).

29 The index determining the exclusion in the order of weight: the most determining is age and the least determining is sex.

30 The best-known and completed programs are Sulinet (Schoolnet) Express and Közháló (Public Net) Program. Sulinet (Schoolnet) wished to elevate the level of penetration of ICT devices, e.g. anyone who bought such a device received a tax allowance. Közháló (Public Net) is a basic information public utility throughout the country, which ensures internet access for all local public administration authorities, institutions, schools outside the government informatics, other organizations of public projects, and civilian organizations. <http://www.kozhalo2.hu/>

31 Due to the economic crisis in 2008, hardly any central sources can be expected for this purpose in the near future. Implementation has so far been led mostly by civil organizations. The success of the program depends on civilian activity and their support. Such a civil organization is Neumann János Computer Science Society (Neumann János Számítógép-tudományi Társaság, NJSZT), Information Forum on Reconciliation of Interests (Informatikai Érdekegyeztető Fórum, Inforum), Foundation for the Spreading of Internet (Internet Terjesztéséért Alapítvány), Telehouses.

32 Inforum: e-Inclusion in Hungary. Hungarian annual report 2008. <http://ittk.hu/english/docs/hungarian_einclusion_annual_report_2008.pdf>

33 OECD Information Technology Outlook 2006

34 It is not by chance that foreign firms come to Hungary. One reason is that a number of Hungarian firms do outstanding work even at international level (e.g.: Kürt Zrt, Grafisoft Nyrt, Nav N Go Kft.), the other is the world-standard Hungarian instruction of engineers and low salaries compared to the EU.

35 In October 2007, about 1800 legal webstores were in operation. (GKIeNET, 2007)

36 Data from 2006. This proportion in the EU is 1.06-1.07%.

37 The modification of the law (law CLXIV. from year 2005) on electronic trade abolished the obligation of mail order services to maintain business premises from 31st March, 2008.

38 Law C from year 2003 on electronic conveying of news.

39 Government act 1021/2005. (III. 10) on primary government tasks concerning the conversion to ground-level digital television-broadcasting, law LXXIV from year 2007 on the regulations of broadcasting and of digital conversion.

40 Law LXIII. From year 1992 on the protection of personal data and accessibility of public data, and law LXXII. From year 1999 and law XLVIII, from year 2003 modifying this.

41 Law LXXVI. From year 1999 on copyright.

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Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Róbert Sinka, « Introduction. The formation of the Hungarian Information Society in the last ten years », Netcom, 23-1/2 | 2009, 7-20.

Référence électronique

Róbert Sinka, « Introduction. The formation of the Hungarian Information Society in the last ten years », Netcom [En ligne], 23-1/2 | 2009, mis en ligne le 06 février 2014, consulté le 18 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/netcom/840 ; DOI : 10.4000/netcom.840

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Auteur

Róbert Sinka

Szent István University, Kosáry Domokos Library and Archives, H-2103 Gödöllő, Páter K. utca 1, Tel.: +36 30 290 7740, e-mail: sinka.robert@lib.szie.hu

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