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Passau in the online Encyclopedia Britannica

This month the Future of Russian core team and its active partners crossed borders in more than one respect. From February 3 to 6 they gathered, together with eight invitees, in Germany for the third Future of Russian conference. “The Russian Internet in a Global Context,” as F3 was called, was a truly transnational endeavor: presenters scrutinized new-media developments in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, but also Kazakhstan, the US, and Scandinavia. They did so at the more than aptly located city of Passau. This lovely town lies so close to the Czech and Austrian borders that even mobile phone providers were at a loss: should they welcome their traveling owners to Germany or to Austria? Read the rest of this entry »

Belarusian authorities are now, in accordance with the Presidential decree No. 60 which will come into force on 1 July, registering so-called internet resources. Out of some 60 applications for registration, only 20 resources have so far successfully completed registration. Among the reasons for not registering the remaining 40 resources, government officials mentioned “orthographical mistakes” in the applications. Internet is obviously important for official language standardisation in Belarus.

Establishing the number of Internet users in a specific country will always be a difficult task. Finding ways to compare the level of Internet use between countries even harder, as statistics are often based on conflicting criteria in different countries. This has been the case for Belarus, where the number of Internet users was reduced by 3 mln from 2007 to 2008, which amounted to a reduction of more than 50% of the total number. The reason was simply that the statistics for 2007 had been completely wrong. The Ministry of Statistics had based their statistics on the registered number of users in the capital Minsk, which was bound to give a wrong number as the difference between Minsk and the rest of the country in terms of technical development is huge.

The corrected figures for 2008 are 3,1 mln users, or a third of the population in the 10 mln country. This puts Belarus on par with Russia (45,2 mln users) in relative numbers, but much higher than Ukraine (4,8 mln users), where only one in ten use the Internet, according to statistics by the International Telecommunication Union. Given the uncertainty related to these numbers one could expect the actual figures for Ukraine to be higher.

The web project reports from the recent conference Delovoi Internet in Minsk, which was devoted to BY-net, the Belarusian Internet sphere. Many of the papers from the conference are available on the conference home page, and they give a good understanding of the development of Internet and social media in the country. In’s report we learn that the prices of Internet access in Belarus are 30 times lower today than five years ago, but they are still significantly higher than in the neighbouring countries. Thus, if you want a connection equal to 1 Mb/sec in Belarus you will have to pay 100 times more than in Poland. This is interpreted as a result of the state monopoly on providing Internet services. Still, the number of Internet users increases steadily, and has reached 3 million in the 10 mill country.

The conference organisers had arranged for a live twitter update throughout the conference, through the tag #di_by, which turned out to be very popular among the participants. The same has been the case for similar conferences in the city, and Twitter seems to have gained a strong foothold in Belarus.