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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

E-Russia Faces Uphill Information Battle

Not one, but two massive undertakings lie ahead for the government's Electronic Russia program. Besides the task of wiring the country by 2010, it must convince its citizens of the need to do so, a VTsIOM poll released Wednesday found.

In that, it has a long way to go.

Only 17 percent of the population are aware of the government's E-Russia program, and of that slice, 54 percent feel it would be helpful to them or their close ones, VTsIOM said.

Only 4 percent of the 1,600 respondents said they know the program well.

The results of the poll "came as a surprise to us," Deputy Communications Minister Dmitry Milovantsev told reporters Wednesday.

The ministry supervises the E-Russia project and had commissioned the poll.

The poll also found that 75 percent of respondents don't know how to use the Internet, and 63 percent cannot use a computer.

The much-touted E-Russia attempts to popularize the use of computer technology and the Internet by installing public Internet stations, supplying schools with computers and making government services and documents available online.

The poll, conducted door-to-door in mid-July, found that 17 percent of the respondents were familiar with the program. Existing Internet users, professionals, those with higher education, young people and students were the most informed.

Meanwhile, 76 percent of respondents have never heard of E-Russia, according to results presented by Natalya Zorkaya, a senior research fellow at VTsIOM. Among the most ignorant were Russians in the "social periphery" -- the less-educated and less well-paid, rural residents as well as older people and pensioners.

Older people, homemakers and especially the unemployed were also among the most skeptical that E-Russia could help them.

There is a growing schism between those who use the Internet and those who cannot afford it and are thus wary of it, Zorkaya said.

"There is a need for programs that would help the other groups [apart from the e-savvy]," she said. "For now, these groups demonstrate indifference. They do not identify themselves with this new reality. It's like a party and they haven't been invited."

Most respondents thought E-Russia's priority should be to provide more public access Internet points and to place education and health services online.

Oleg Byakhov, head of the E-Russia coordination department at the Communications Ministry, said the public information campaign already exists, but on a very small scale. It is unlikely to become much larger next year, he added.

E-Russia's budget has been cut to 1.42 billion rubles ($46.8 million) this year, in comparison to the planned 7.55 billion rubles ($249 million), according to Byakhov. In order to fulfill all its planned programs, the initiative needs 6.5 billion rubles next year, Milovantsev said.

The new program will be spearheaded in Tyumen and Yaroslavl, where volunteers will introduce people to computers, according to Sergey Grigorenko, chief of information policy at the Communications Ministry.

Grigorenko likened the information campaign to Soviet-era literacy campaigns.