Sheetrit: Everyone should have Internet access, skills

Knesset Science and Technology Committee chairman advocates expansion of Lehava Project, meant to bring Web to people in lower socioeconomic groups.

December 14, 2010 04:42
2 minute read.
MK Meir Sheetrit

MK Meir Sheetrit 311 Ariel. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Knesset Science and Technology Committee chairman Meir Sheetrit called on the government to enable everyone to have Internet access and regard the Web as a national infrastructure.

In a Monday session on reducing the “digital gap,” Sheetrit advocated the expansion of the Lehava Project with its network of centers providing online computers so that residents can learn about and use the Internet.

Experts noted that Internet use varied greatly depending on one’s nationality, income, educational level, religiosity, gender and place of residence. Lehava was meant to teach people in the lower socioeconomic groups how to access the Web.

But while Minister Michael Eitan was chosen to make the government more accessible to the public, especially through online services, many individuals are unable to take advantage of this because they have no online computer or knowledge of how to use one, said Tal Haramati, a senior deputy to the accountant-general in the Treasury.

Lehava director Yossi Tubol said the Treasury decided to double the state’s investment in the project in the coming year to NIS 26 million.

There are currently 14 Lehava centers, from Safed in the North to Beersheba in the South, each with at least 40 PCs, a team of four counsellors and a director. Another 17 such centers are expected to open in 2011.

Central Bureau of Statistics data on the socioeconomic level of communities are used to determine where new centers should be located, said Tubol.

But Sheetrit noted that many voluntary organizations had set up their own Internet centers in various towns and cities, causing a waste of resources.

“Lehava should reach communities that have no such centers,” the MK asserted.

Eitan said Lehava must be independent and not have to look for funding to annual allocations.

Ariel Mayor Ron Nahman said preference should be given to Internet centers in existing schools for teaching children as well as their parents. Ronni Dayan of the Education Ministry stated that negotiations are now being carried out between it and the Treasury to turn schools into Lehava centers in the afternoons and evenings.

Israel Employment Service director Yossi Farhi said that at least 100,000 of the 500,000 people who come to its centers are unable to operate a computer, while most of those who were trained on PCs found work much more quickly.

“Computer education should be part of the educational system and not a complementary project,” he said. “The computer today is a tool for work.”

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