The Information Technology and Computer Aided Mapping knowledge centre, Itaca-M, the first of its kind in Italy, is housed at the University of Florence, uniting university professors and Google experts in creating innovative digital applications for the public sector.
What might sound to some like an oxymoron-‘digital applications’ and ?public sector’-seems a modern echo of the Renaissance with the addition of ?Florence’: the goal of Itaca-M is to significantly improve internet and intranet web searches via Google Search Appliances united with Google’s geolocation technology Google Earth and Google Maps.
The Google lab will be managed by Paolo Rissone, president of the Centro Servizi Informatici e Informativi dell’Ateneo Fiorentino (CSAIF, the Florence University centre for information technology services); Cristina Mugnai, director of CSAIF; and Margherita Azzari, scientific manager of the university’s department of applied geography. Google and Global Base, a company from Prato and Google Italy Enterprise member, provide support and technical assistance for the project.
So, beyond basking in the glow of pride that Florence has been chosen as the location for this first-time Italian project, what does Itaca-M provide to the average person? The applications that the project yields should, for example, identify the nearest pharmacy that’s open; or instructions on where and how to renew a permesso di soggiorno.
But many of the apps will be aimed at the vast tourism market, permitting, for example, geolocation of Florence’s vast cultural and artistic heritage, including virtual landscaping. Imagine being able to locate the David at the Galleria dell’Accademia on a smartphone, complete with opening hours and other information, and using that same smartphone to visualize the streets that you are travelling through to get there, just as they appeared when Michelangelo roamed the streets to and from his sculpting commissions.
Because the Google knowledge centre involves multiple university faculties, other public sector areas that are expected to benefit from Itaca-M’s work include education, health, municipal and regional services and traffic management.
It seems no accident that the centre’s name, Itaca-M, recalls the Greek island of Ithaca, Ulysses’ home in the epic tale of the Odyssey, which recounts his 10-year journey back to the island after playing his part in the battles that felled Troy. Italian bureaucracy is not renowned for its efficiency or innovative thinking, and the Florentine system is certainly no different from the rest. What Google is taking on here is epic and extremely courageous. And undoubtedly the gurus from Mountain View, embarking on an adventure that will be brimming with adventures, will certainly meet with a Cyclops or two en route. Good luck with the ?floogle’: Florence is counting on you to bring it home!