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‘Net Worthy’ Program Expands Nationwide

Analysis

Zoltán Pereszlényi (center left) of MTel and Andrea Géczi Tőzsér Istvánné (center right) of IKSz exchange thoughts during the press launch of the nationwide expansion of “Net Worthy.”

An agreement has been signed between Magyar Telekom and the Association of IT and Libraries (IKSz) to take the Netrevalók (“Net Worthy”) program, which seeks to educate elders about the internet and bridge the generation gap, nationwide.

Following its successful launch in Budapest in the fall of 2023, this spring agreement with the IKSz takes the initiative to the next level, with 48 regional institutions joining 27 libraries in the capital city in the program.

Magyar Telekom will donate 100 monitors each to the Metropolitan Szabó Ervin Library and the IKSz for libraries participating in the program to support the development of the necessary digital infrastructure.

The nationwide expansion of Netrevalók was announced at the 25th Internet Fiesta»Pro Closing Conference on March 27. Initially launched in November in cooperation with the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library, the program now sees libraries in an additional 44 towns and cities across the country joining.

In partnership with the IKSz, more than 500 high school students can now participate in the program nationwide as part of their community service, introducing older people to digital solutions that can provide genuine assistance in their daily lives.

Personal Connections

The Netrevalók program is designed to build personal connections between generations. The high school students give the elderly customized training, using the pensioner’s own devices during the sessions to access information relevant to their needs and at their own pace, with opportunities for repetition and practice.

Meanwhile, the students perform valuable community work, achieve immediate success experiences, develop essential soft skills, such as communication and problem-solving abilities, and learn empathy, acceptance, and patience.

Through the collaboration, libraries will provide the venue, liaise with schools, and certify the community service for students. Meanwhile, MTel will take on the coordination and communication aspects and create online platforms and preparatory materials for the students.

Additionally, the telco announced at the event that it will donate the 200 monitors to enhance the digital infrastructure of the libraries participating in the program.

The common goal of MTel, the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library, and the Association of IT and Libraries is to assist the populace in acquiring and developing digital literacy and understanding of digital culture.

It is essential that socially disadvantaged groups, such as the elderly, also become acquainted with and have access to the opportunities offered by technology. However, many of them need support and guidance, which can come naturally from the younger generation, who are adept at navigating these digital realms.

Digital Development

“We consider it our mission to advance the digital development of Hungarian society and to demonstrate how technology can be used to propel people forward and facilitate everyday life,” says Zoltán Pereszlényi, deputy CEO of commercial operations at Magyar Telekom.

“With the current agreement, we have created a national program that offers guidance and genuine assistance to the elderly while also aiming to bridge the existing digital and generational divide. We are pleased that the initiative was well-received beyond Budapest and count on more towns and libraries joining the Netrevalók program in the future,” he adds.

For the Association of IT and Libraries, president Andrea Géczi Tőzsér Istvánné highlighted that “forming partnerships that expand the services of member libraries, promote social responsibility, and broaden access to information, as well as strengthen the connections between generations, is crucial.”

Following the official signing, researcher Enikő Bereczki gave a lecture titled “Cooperation Across Generations,” in which she said, “It’s important to recognize the differences between generations living together in society, how this affects us, to realize the importance of connecting generations, and to master the key strategies that help overcome these barriers and collaborate more effectively in diverse family, workplace, and social environments.”

From Roots to Reach: The Evolution of ‘Netrevalók’

The predecessor of the Netrevalók program, named Legyélteis! Most Generációs (“Be Tech-Savvy! Generations Now”) started in March 2019 with the collaboration of five Budapest high schools.

This initiative was renewed and expanded by MTel in November 2023 when it launched Netrevalók in partnership with the Metropolitan Library. Since last fall, the program has been available in 27 libraries in Budapest. From the end of March, high school students in 44 cities will teach the elderly digital skills in library sessions as part of their community service.

The free sessions are held simultaneously on the second Wednesday of each month in every participating library. During these sessions, retirees explore topics of interest on the internet with the youths, using smart devices that retirees often carry but may not be able to use confidently.

The workshops cover various topics such as social media usage, e-books, internet safety, online communication and transactions, entertainment, hobbies, transportation, travel planning, photo editing, digital photography, health, and sports.

The initiative not only equips seniors with vital digital skills but also fosters a sense of community and understanding across generations. It creates a platform for the elderly to confidently navigate the digital world, thereby enhancing their lives and connecting them more closely with the wider, increasingly digital society.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of April 8, 2024.

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