Internet Available to 0.15% of Armenian Population

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Inspired with incomes earned via Internet trade–international capital started getting actively involved in the world-wide process of switching to the Internet network–with over 400 communication satellites to be put into orbit by 2003.

Nowadays–nearly all countries of the world are working on their own national programs of the long-term development of information infrastructure. Armenia has no such program yet–and the Internet still remains an elite medium in Armenia.

Speaking at a seminar in Yerevan entitled "The Internet in Armenia: Present and Future Trends," Igor Mkrtumyan–President of the Armenian Internet Users Group and Director of Computer Service of the American University of Armenia–reported that 4,000 computers are imported and sold in Armenia every year.

Only 2,500 of 20,000 computers are connected to the Internet; thus–only 0.15 percent of the population can avail themselves of Internet possibilities.

In conditions of extremely low population incomes–the number of personal Internet users is unlikely to exceed 1,000 in the coming years–which will condition high tariffs on network use. High tariffs–which are the result of the monopoly in the sphere of telecommunications–are an obstacle to Internet development too. The absence of credit and debtor cards is also an obstacle to network expansion.

Former chief of the Information & Book-Publishing Department Garegin Chugaszian believes it to be necessary to establish nationwide telecommunication centers in order to encourage Internet development. Chugaszian emphasized that it is necessary to draw the attention of the "ArmenTel" company to Internet development problems. He said that by transferring the monopoly on telecommunications to ArmenTel–the government of Armenia got rid of the burden of telecommunication policy and the necessity to have a long-term program. According to the speaker–Armenia’should develop a nationwide program by 2005. If the Internet fails to become a popular medium shortly–then Armenia will play absolutely no role in history.

According to Director of the Noyan Tapan news agency Tigran Harutiunyan–the Internet becomes the paramount issue in Armenia that will largely determine the country’s future.

The invention of the Internet is a more significant phenomenon in the history of mankind than the invention of electricity–said Dr. Harutiunyan.

The Internet replaced the traditional mission of teletype news agencies. Not only plain text reports but also audio- and video materials became a remunerative business in the Internet environment. Dr. Harutiunyan said that apart from being a means of communication–the Internet also turned into an information environment. By its possibilities of high-speed and cheap communication the Internet has also made it possible to establish independent news agencies and centers–Dr. Harutiunyan concluded.

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