New minister critical of digital vouchers

Ljubljana – New Digital Transformation Minister Emilija Stojmenova Duh is critical of digital vouchers, a measure that was initiated by the previous government, saying they will not help step up digital literacy and inclusion, instead they will widen the digital and social gaps.

From Wednesday, digital vouchers worth EUR 150 are available to students from last three grades of primary school through to university. They can be used to purchase computer hardware and were introduced under an act on digital inclusion that was passed in February.

“The amount of the voucher is such that it will not allow the socially disadvantaged to buy the equipment they need, while others who already have the equipment will be able to buy expensive gadgets that will not contribute in any way to increasing digital literacy,” the minister said on Twitter on Thursday.

Stojmenova Duh estimates that the state will spend nearly EUR 60 million on the project, but these funds will mainly be used to finance foreign-made equipment in the development of which Slovenian companies have had no significant role or benefit.

She noted that she would have cancelled the project immediately if that was possible, but it is not.

The vouchers will be later also available to people aged 55 or more who will have previously completed free digital literacy courses. It is not yet known when exactly this training will start.

The minister criticised the previous government for failing to think the project through and forgetting about people with reduced mobility.

The Left, a coalition party, was also critical of the project, noting that it would further deepen inequalities and that the funding used for the project would have come in handy at the moment when cost of living is going up.

Media reports said that the first day of digital vouchers saw quite a rush in electronics shops. Big Bang Ljubljana told TV Slovenija their customers had to wait up to an hour to redeem the voucher on Wednesday.

By 11am on Thursday EUR 826,438 worth of digital vouchers had been redeemed, shows data from the Government Office for Digital Transformation. In a day and a half 5,885 students redeemed their vouchers.

In all, 219,852 individuals are eligible for vouchers worth a total of EUR 32.98 million.