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Tbilisi is about to become an Internet city by the end of 2012. Free Wi-Fi network named “Tbilisi Loves You” is already available in some of the central areas as the National Tourism Agency and Tbilisi City Hall inform. IT progress in Georgia has become visible for the last years but some flaws also remain.
Internet in Georgia
According to Georgian National Communication Commission the number of Internet users has passed 1.5 million in 2011 which is an impressive 49 percent rise from the previous year. More and more Georgians opt for high-speed Internet with DSL or fiber-optic connections taking the lead, while dial-up has apparently become a history for Georgians. Georgian Internet took the start in the early nineties with all websites tied to Russia. In later years, couple of local providers emerged offering low speed connection for 300$ per month. Naturally, very few if anyone used the service. The turn was made in 2003 when ADSL connection was introduced and prices fell down; the number of Internet cafes fell sharply as individual households became provided with Internet connection. By 2007 Internet became the second fastest-growing segment in the sphere of communication after mobile connections. After the merger of few companies the market eventually ended up mostly divided by two – Silknet (once state-owned and now privatized) and private provider Caucasus Online.
New Internet fashion
The two are in hostile relations, but it hardly bothers those Georgians for whom Internet has managed to become indivisible part of lifestyle for the last five years. People are increasingly keen on number of new services that now became available. Thea Zerekidze, an executive director of Camex, a company working on transportation of online purchased goods to Georgia reports that the number of online shoppers has increased significantly for the last four-five years. – People who shop online once than spread the trend across the friends and the habit becomes permanent, Thea says.
Online shopping is, of course, not all. Public figures and politicians have commenced a fierce competition for Facebook likes and comments perceiving social networks as a public platform, while few years aback the same networks were perceived as a teenage entertainment. Government tries to quicken the pace of IT revolution surprising Georgians by number of high-tech projects one of the latest being a virtualized government web portal with 3D ministers.
In Cities yes, in villages rather not
However, reaching out via Internet does not mean reaching out to all. According to the Caucasus Barometer 2011 recently presented by The Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC Georgia), a whole 45 percentof Georgian citizens report they never use Internet with another 5 percent saying they don’t know what the Internet is. However, 28 percent of citizens seem to be using Internet on the daily basis and another 10 percent use Internet at least once in a week. Most part of daily Internet users expectedly come on the capital residents. A whole 63 percentof rural citizens never use the Internet while only 5 percent of rural citizens use it daily.
Tutana Kvaratskhelia, a resident of the village Jgali in western part of Georgia, reports that though most of the families with young people own a computer in the area, people do not spend much time on the Internet. High-speed connection, an ordinary service for the capital residents, has not reached other regions so far.
According to CRRC, Georgians also name lack of access to the computer as the major reason for not using Internet. “Society for the distribution of computer knowledge” was founded this May to tackle the problem. The ceremony of foundation took place in the Eastern region of Kakheti in the museum-residence of famous Georgian public figure Ilia Chavchavadze who, in the late nineteenth century founded the society with the similar title, but that one was for spreading literacy. As the Ministry of Justice press center informs, this was a symbolic act, not a coincidence.
President Mikheil Saakashvili, being present on the foundation ceremony assessed the knowledge of English language and computer skills essential for the modern society and encouraged all Georgians to take effort. The foundation document was also symbolically signed electronically. There is a joke among Georgians that the two things you need to know in the whole world now are English and computer. But as the country takes steps forward in IT there seems to be little fun for those who do not manage to keep up.