Friday, March 14, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Fewer than One Russian in Five has a Computer at Home

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 14 – Only 19 percent of Russians have a computer at home, according to a new study conducted by the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a statistic that acquires new importance as the Putin regime tightens its grip on the electronic media by closing down some sites and forcing providers to block access to others.

                Many in the West and some in Russia have comforted themselves with the notion that even if the Kremlin controls all of television, many Russians will still be able to get to Internet sites via various work arounds and the belief that if there had been an Internet, Nazism in Germany would have been impossible.

            But the new Academy of Sciences study (reported at calls such faith into question. Few Russians have access to the Internet at home – not all who have computers there can do so – and those who use computers at work to go on line can be more easily monitored, intimidated, and even punished if they go to the wrong sites.

            Obviously, being able to reach a fifth of the Russian population is significant, and no one should discount the Internet as a delivery mechanism. But this new figure means that Western governments interested in reaching that audience should not count on FM stations which of necessity are in almost every case based on Russian territory or on the Internet alone.

            Indeed, this finding may mean that some in the West should consider a return to shortwave broadcasting – it is likely that more Russians still have shortwave receivers than have computers even if many have ceased to use them – or direct satellite to home broadcasting.  Otherwise, the West may find itself conceding the information war to a Kremlin which is ever more inclined, as Solzhenitsyn put it, to live by lies alone.

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