How 102 000 people learned to use the Internet


In the framework of the unique training project "Vaata Maailma" (“Look@World”) computer and Internet courses were made available to all adult residents of Estonia free of charge between 2002 and 2004. Altogether 102,697 people received training, which accounts for 10 per cent of Estonia's adult population. “Look@World” was fully funded by the private sector. The financial contributors saw the project as a promising way to create new market, turning more people and organisations into Internet users. It was also interesting to find out how it is possible to give training to such a large amount of people in a short time.
At the launch of the project autumn 2002 about 28% of Estonian adult population had ever used Internet and only 15 per cent were regular users. Within 1,5 years the number of regular Internet users increased from 15% to 30% . At 30% percent the Information society can already function. A further aim was to approach the levels of Internet use in Finland.

Who were interested in the training?

The target group were all people aged 15-74, who had not used or did not plan to use Internet. At that time there were 650’800 people in the target group (59% of Estonian population). 71% of the participants were women. Unofficial data state that two thirds of the learners were Estonian and one third Russian.

Chart 1. We can see that 23,5% of participants were workers with secondary education. This was good news for the organizers because previously only people with higher education had been computer and Internet users. “Look@World” helped to get rid of this problem. The chart also shows that the majority of learners were working people.

How much did it cost?

The initial budget for the project was 45.4 million EEK, but real costs have stood at 39.9 million EEK according to preliminary estimates, bringing total savings to 5.5 EEK million. The biggest cost item was predictably the pay for the teachers, totalling 16.8 million EEK (42.1% of total costs). There was achieved the greatest cost economy on the rent of the rooms that were used for training – being able to save 7.1 million EEK on the planned 11.5 million. Rental rates had already budgeted significantly lower than the market price, but most municipalities were so interested in us offering free computer classes to the residents of namely their counties/towns that they enabled us to use computer classes in their schools either for a minimum fee or free of charge.

What were the courses like?

Alar Ehandi, leader of the project “Look@World”: “The training consisted of a 4 hours basic computer skills and a 4 hours Internet course. On the first day people learned to use the mouse, keyboard etc. Participants could see for themselves that it is ok to press the buttons – some learners first needed to overcome the fear of an explosion. After the first day participants could revise what they had learned at home from the 100-page study-manual. This book was warmly received and could soon be seen in second-hand bookshops and flea markets.
During the second day participants learned how to read news on the Internet, send e-mail and search for material. Everyone tried it out by himself or herself; it was not allowed to learn by watching how others work.
We had altogether more than 300 teachers and 260 computer-classes all over Estonia. Every course had two educators who took turns in teaching. Usually the educators were schoolteachers who had completed a three-day e-training, the third day of which included an introduction to principles of adult education. Some educators were extremely productive. For example 1340 people obtained basic computer and Internet skills under Halje Siimon’s instruction, in less than two years!
In the beginning we were afraid that 100 000 participants is a too big and ambitious goal and were not sure if we could reach our aim. Therefore we advertised the project on radio, TV, newspapers and hired people to promote it near shopping centres. The campaign was very successful and we found many interested people.
But soon enough we understood that the majority of participants had joined the training based on word-of-mouth information. After at least 10 people had completed the course in any village then increasingly more people from the same village became interested. Probably the people in the course told their friends and relatives that the course had been interesting and useful. Other encouraging factors could be community related, too: if your neighbour can do the course, why not you. Besides, everyone in the village probably knows the teacher; the classes take place in the village centre – near enough for everyone.
Another contributing factor to getting as many as 100 000 learners was the policy that teachers got paid according to the amount of students. Thus educators were actively looking for participants, for instance posting adds on local shops “Free computer course next weekend”, calling their acquaintances etc.
The feedback rating was very good: average points 4.8 out of 5. The post research, conducted four months after the project, showed that 70 per cent of all participants had started to use computers and the Internet in their daily lives.
The project turned out more successful than anyone had expected. People were very positive about it. For instance in the beginning we paid rent for the classrooms but soon enough the local municipality centres decided to offer the spaces for free.“

Chart 2. Post-research indicates that 73% of the people that completed the training started to use Internet regularly. The prognosis of the project organizers had been 50% the expectations were exceeded.

Project „Look@World“ arrived in Australia

The organisers of the project were very content that several participants of look@world carried on their skills and knowledge in self-organized courses around the world.
Liia Ling, teacher of Roela Basic School: “I visited Australia for 3 months to see my expatriate acquaintances. I took along three training manuals to introduce this remarkable project to the Estonians there. After showing them the possibilities of the Internet, my host gave her son a computer for Christmas. On Christmas Day we watched wintertime Estonian Christmas Eve in real time together. They hadn’t seen such a sight for 60 years! Regardless of the lack of a proper classroom, I carried out an Internet course based on the look@world training in the Estonian Village of Thirlmere. They were very grateful for the free tutoring – there is no such training project in Australia.”

The ID card campaign

The results of this project encouraged us to continue, Alar Ehandi said. In the next training we introduced the ID-card: how to use it for banking, for digital signatures, e-voting, paying for plane tickets, e-bills etc. In January 2008 we organized the ID Card Day during which over 3.6 million digital signatures were given and electronic personal identifications reached 5.2 million.

Facts about the training project „look@world“

• 102 697 people i.e. some 10% of the adult population of Estonia, received training.
• 11 693 courses were carried out – 35 courses were being held on any given day.
• 8-hour elementary computer and Internet training was free of charge for participants.
• 17 new Look@World classrooms with 34 full-time trainers/coordinators were established.
• 245 classrooms for training and 280 part-time teachers were involved.
• Average grade given by participants to the course was 4.8 in a scale of five.
• Over 70% of participants have started using the Internet.
• 442 Public Access Internet Points (PAIP) employees received special training.
• It took only 1.5 months after the decision to launch the project was made for the first training session to be carried out.
• The entire project took less than 2 years, including pilot projects.