MPs pass systemic bill to promote digital literacy

Ljubljana – The National Assembly passed on Monday a bill to encourage digital inclusion which is designed to enhance digital development of the economy and the entire society. The centrepiece is a scheme of “digital vouchers” for students and adults over 55 to buy digital devices and attend digital literacy courses.

Apart from the over-55s, beneficiaries of the vouchers will be students and secondary school children, but also primary school children in the last three grades after a coalition’s amendment to the government-sponsored bill was endorsed.

The bill brings systemic and emergency solutions, the latter especially to help those who suffered digital exclusion during the coronavirus epidemic.

Courses to acquire digital skills will be carried out and subsidised based on public calls, Minister for Digital Transformation Mark Boris Andrijanič told the MPs before the vote.

The over-55s are to learn the basic skills such as using a digital bank or e-administration services.

The young beneficiaries will meanwhile have a chance to go to free course of advanced digital skills, such as coding, robotics, AI and digital entrepreneurship.

Subsidies to acquire teaching skills and buy new e-learning material will also be provided, and call centres to provide help to residents set up.

Promotional campaigns will be organised, with the first one focussing on protection from online attacks and fraud.

“And since know-how without computers is not enough, financial incentives to buy such devices will be introduced through vouchers,” said the minister.

Digital vouchers will be similar to tourism vouchers the government distributed during the pandemic.

This year they will be worth EUR 150, while under the law, the government will have the discretion to set their value at between 100 and 200 euro.

More than EUR 31 million has been earmarked in the national budget for implementing the new legislation in 2022.

“This is the first systemic law which comprehensively addresses acquisition of digital skills in our country,” Andrijanič said, adding that this would be the biggest e-literacy project in Slovenia’s history.

No deputy group was explicitly against the bill in today’s debate, and it was passed unanimously with 45 votes, as the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), Left, Social Democrats (SD), Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) and unaffiliated MPs abstained.

Coalition New Slovenia (NSi) MP Blaž Pavlin said “it was an important step towards the goal the entire EU is trying to achieve – to have at least 80% of adults with basic digital skills by 2030, whereas Slovenia now has 55%”.

Branko Grims, an MP for the ruling Democrats (SDS), added digital literacy meant implementing constitutional principles such as security, democracy and a free flow of information.

Several opposition MPs, on the other hand, said that the bill was an attempt to buy election votes before the 24 April general election, which the minister rejected, saying the first vouchers would be available only on 15 June. He asserted this was a well planned measure conceived a long time ago.