These days, electronic communication ranks among the fastest methods of acquiring infromation. Upon getting a job, employers require at least basic PC skills, knowledge of office software and the command of the Internet. Mid-aged and senior citizens in the Slovak Republic - due to historic reasons - had a minimum chance of receiving education in the field of information technology. People with a "PC handicap" have very few opportunities to get a decent job, particularly in the regions suffering from high unemployment rate. Computer illiteracy complicates using the Internet as a source of information when looking for a job. Around 38% of over 40 year-olds are estimated not to possess PC skills, which makes the jobs in certain fields inaccessible to them.
The project was launched in January 2007 and is planned to be finalized in December 2007. The first courses were run in May 2007. In co-operation with the non-profit organization P-mat n.o., Microsoft IT Academies have been set up at 100 schools across Slovakia, out of which 40 have been involved in the project 40UP. The participating schools were selected according to the region (the regions with high unemployment rate were preferred) and how much they were interested in participating.
72 lecturers have been trained, so that they are able to administrate the courses. The courses are taught by local elementary and secondary school teachers who have good knowledge about the community and who are approachable to people who might be shy to ask basic questions about using computers. They are able to help select suitable participants as well as to tailor the sessions to make them relevant to the local population. The lecturers are sensitive to the participants` way of learning and therefore, use special methods not to distress them. The courses are lectured towards showing people that computers are not difficult to use and that they have a multitude of uses outside as well as within the workplace. The lecturers are trying to introduce the ways of using a computer and the Internet for the purpose of entertainment, not only for work.
There are two types of courses, basic and extended, 10 lessons each. Every applicant can choose one of the courses according to his/her level of knowledge and experience.
The estimated number of participants for the year 2007 is 1500. For the participants, the courses are free and they are provided with literature and support materials. Microsoft provides financial support to trainigs of the lecturers, actual trainings, equipment and materials
There were no major complication s in the course of the realization of the project. The problem of finding a responsible partner for the project was sorted out by addressing a non-profit organization P-MAT.
When considering suitable venues and equipment, we turned to Microsoft IT Academies, which had already been set up across Slovakia.
Due to a great interest on the side of the public, the number of applicants exceeded the capacity of the programme, which resulted to the decision to extend the project for another year.
Under this very successful programme, 765 people have been trained after forty courses (735 more are due to be trained by the end of 2007).
The participants have become self-confident in using information and communication technologies. The location of the courses has resulted in creating a stronger connection between schools and local communities which was one of the objectives of the project