Client: Eesti Kaugtöö Ühing

Period: 2010

Could local Internet access points (IAP) active in Estonian rural areas have potential to serve as telework centres? The presence of a telework centre could possibly give people an opportunity to work in their local area with necessary conditions for office work and technical equipment instead of driving daily to their city office. How would public Internet access points be suitable for that?

The goal of this research project is to map the potential of Estonian public Internet access points as telework centres, by answering following questions:
• What is the status, condition and terms of use of necessary technical and supporting infrastructure in Estonian public Internet points needed for telework?
• Which Internet points act as telework environments at the moment?
• What is the nature and extent of telework present in those Internet access points today?
• What is the difference between access points acting as telework centres from those which are not used for telework?

A web survey was carried out among Estonian IAP-s in May 2010 to get answers to these questions. The research covered 530 Internet points mainly outside of county centres.

The results showed that IAPs were mainly used by school-going children and adolescents who constituted more than half of the users. The proportion of working-age adults is about a third. More than half of Internet points more or less find use for working purposes.

Several differences become evident between the centres used for working or work-related activities and the ones not used for work-related activities. There are more computers in IAPs which are used for telework and on average these have been equipped better with office and communication software and the opportunities for using additional devices and services.

When assessing the telework potential in Internet access points following the results of the survey it can be noted that an important part of Internet points are used for working purposes now but a variety of obstacles can be brought out. Aged inventory and slowness of computers, the slowness of Internet connections and lack of necessary software serve as more prominent examples. The absence of a chance to speak on the phone at the working location for work-related purposes and the inappropriateness as a working environment because of a lack of privacy and the activities of other users (e.g. school children) obstruct work-related use.

The key issue affecting the telework potential is the increasing widespread use of personal computers and Internet connections. Many respondents mentioned this trend as a factor which has resulted in the constant decline in the use of Internet points. The future working perspective of Internet points depends on which added value the IAP can bring compared to working at home either because of additional services (e.g, printer, copier, scanner) or a better working environment. Although the aforementioned problems related to computers and software can be solved by renewing computers and software, it may not be enough. An important part of potential distance workers are these days laptop users who consider other aspects as well – for instance the quality of work environment and additional services.

The project was commissioned by Estonian Telework Association.