Šaulauskas, Marius Povilas. Digital Lithuania 2001. [English summary of Skaitmeninė Lietuva 2001] Vilnius: Vilnius University, 2001. ISBN 9986-19-431-8. Free. [Full report in Lithuanian available at http://www.fsf.vu.lt/filk/mps/sl2001.zip
The development of information society is one of the most frequently discussed topics in post-communist Lithuania. It is the topic least grounded in theory and the most distant from the tradition of social research. Therefore, many unsound evaluations, controversial interpretations and various speculations are raised over it in various spheres of science, policy and practice. One should bear in mind that Lithuanian society has undergone several essential value transformation stages over the last decade and the factors of information society and information technology belong to the most revolutionary changes side by side with rapid shifts in politcal, economic, and cultural environment. The process of research of the digitalisation of Lithuania has been rather fragmentary and based on empirical rather than conceptual premises without including a general picture of the development of information society and highlighting the main trends.
In this context, the research conducted by Šaulauskas is rather exceptional event, which provides a new impulse to this direction of research in Lithuania. This complex research project on the information society in Lithuania was ordered and financed by the Open Lithuania Fund. The academic partners were: the Information Society Study Centre of Vilnius University and the Marketing and Opinion Research Centre "Vilmorus".
This research is the foundation and the axis of the monograph. Therefore, the work belongs to the genre of classical analytical sociology studies. The structure of the work confirms this statement. The Introduction deals with a theoretical conceptualisation and distinguishes main discourses of research into the information society. These are originally summarised according to the methods of conceptualisation of social change. It is also important that they are evaluated according to the expressions of cognition of homo informaticus.
This theoretical background is used for the construction of a methodological skeleton of the research, identification of the main principles, criteria and attitudes. The author seeks to combine quantitative parameters of "informatisation" with their sociological interpretation founded on concrete realities of the Lithuanian digitalisation divide. Three levels of analysis are used in the work: micro, meso, and macro and they correspond to the widely spread concepts of micro- and macro-integration. The investigation was conducted in three waves or stages of representative public opinion polls that complemented each other and provided more precision (there were 3,329 respondents in the multi-stage random survey over all Lithuania). The results are compatible with the context of EU as the indicators were selected in correlation with the criteria of EUROBAROMETER (Measuring of information society) and ESIS II (C:\InformationResearch\ir\reviews\revs071.html).
Four profiles of digital Lithuania were identified as a result:
The research found that 73,8% of Lithuanian citizens relate the future of Lithuania to the need for an information society, almost as many (72,3%) expect a better life in relation to the development of the information society. 95,1% of respondent wish that their children could use a computer. The researchers looked into the influence of computerisation on economic relations, work, family, health, computer crimes, and attitudes towards the development of information society abroad and in the country. The data were compared to other Baltic States - Latvia and Estonia. The leading place of Estonia is ensured not only by a greater degree of urbanisation of the country but also by the concentration of inhabitants in the capital city. Šaulauskas makes a premise that if 30% of country inhabitants (not 16% as it is) were living in Vilnius (the capital), all indicators of "informatisation" would be 13% better. Among the barriers to the spread of Internet according to the respondents are the high costs and difficulties related to access. 69,2% of them think that the government is not paying the necessary attention to the issues of the development of information society.
Almost the same amount of inhabitants (69,7%) wishes to see the development of public digital services. This is especially important for those who seek employment. 20-29% of others would like to receive information about leisure and entertainment. Though in 2001 in Lithuania only 12,9% of respondents had computer at home, 70,1% of the students and employees were using it.
One of the most significant is the issue of the Internet development and use. The Internet is used by 19,5% of the inhabitants over 15 years of age. 42,1% indicate the lack of access to the Internet as a problem. Only 5,8% of inhabitants have Internet access from home. The indicators of telephone use and spread of audio-visual technology supplement this data.
The research is also focused on digital literacy as a problem of digital divide. The correlation of Internet use with the level of income and education is evident. On the other hand, the "informatisation" is not related to nationality or gender in Lithuania. The place of living did not affect the answers of respondent however the social status had highest correlation.
The highest level of "informatisation" is found in the capital Vilnius and Kaunas (the second largest city) is close to it. The other big cities are far behind. In comparison to the contexts of Europe and the world, the "informatisation" level in Lithuania is lower than the average of Euroepan and other developed countries. Lithuania is in between the other Baltic States: Latvia and Estonia. 50,8% of respondents indicated the economic level as the main barrier for the development of information society.
These main results are well supported by empirical evidence. The monograph is illustrated by graphic material, which complements the text essentially. The questionnaire is reproduced as an annex together with the summary of the demographic data in the tables An extended summary in English is important for an international reader.
One would like to see a wider range of the literature exploring more aspects of the chosen area in the reference list as well as in the review of previous research. The author should have reflected and revealed the earlier works done by Lithuanian researchers and based his work on the previous results.
However, "Digital Lithuania 2001" is a very competent input into the general context of research on Lithuanian information society, into methodical and applied aspects of research, and into improvement of information society studies at Lithuanian universities.
Dr. Arūnas Augustinaitis