Digital Tuscany
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Digital Tuscany

By now it's understood that if Italy's economy is going to have any kind of future, we have to make some pretty giant leaps in terms of digital acceptance, appreciation and infrastructure. The statistics speak loud and clear. We need to go digital, and we need to do

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Thu 26 Apr 2012 12:00 AM

By now it’s understood that if Italy’s economy is
going to have any kind of future, we have to make some pretty giant leaps in
terms of digital acceptance, appreciation and infrastructure. The statistics
speak loud and clear. We need to go digital, and we need to do it now. And
Tuscany seems ready for the virtual leap.

 

 

Although Tuscany is well-placed
relative to the rest of Italy in terms of digitalisation, it must be remembered
that Italy is a bottom-ranking country within Europe as a web society. So,
there is a lot of room for improvement.

 

Thirty-six percent of adults in Tuscany between 16 and
74 have never used a PC, and 38 percent have never connected to the Internet.
For Italy as a whole, these numbers are 39 percent and 41 percent,
respectively. The figures for northern Europe are both under 10 percent. For
the net-savvy Icelandic population, the percentage of those who have not used a
PC or connected to the Internet is 4 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

 

Nearly 94 percent of Tuscan business with more than 10
employees have access to broadband. Almost 42 percent of those employees use
the Internet at least once a week, and over 63 percent of those companies have
a website. Keep in mind that Tuscany’s business structure is dominated by
micro-businesses with far fewer than 10 employees and often are family run with
no non-family employees. Also, all too often these businesses are still run via
fax machines, landlines, human (very fallible) memory and Post-it notes.

 

To usher in a digital revolution, Tuscany’s Regional
Council has proposed a plan that includes providing broadband across the
region. (Many mountainous and sparsely populated areas are penalised with no
broadband and sporadic 3G coverage.) Another huge area to be tackled is the
digitalisation of government entities (including health structures, schools and
even libraries), which is now a massive priority.

 

The proposal intends to include regional council and
local councils, trade associations, private businesses, schools and
universities, and courts and judicial offices within the digitalisation
process. At the core of the plan are three simple actions:

 

1. creating a simplified electronic administration for
the public sector

2. encouraging digital-savvy citizens and
competitiveness

3. providing infrastructures and platforms for
services

 

The Tuscan Region will have to
break through the morass of bureaucracy, promote innovation and build sound
infrastructures and services. It’s a seriously ambitious yet vitally necessary
project.

 

Among the hot topics in the
project are cloud computing technology for the Regional Council and the
resulting economies of scale for local government; overcoming the digital gap for
businesses; closing the digital divide among citizens; the implementation of
digital terrestial TV; the use of the latest forms of wireless connection; and
the training of public sector employees and ICT skill growth at digital
villages.

 

With such mammoth goals it now
becomes clear why those in favour of pushing through the proposal and gaining
approval at all levels are pulling out all the stops to make sure that is
exactly what happens. This huge project is so very necessary for the well-being
of Tuscany and its economy.

 

The Fondazione Sistema Toscana,
the region’s vehicle for promoting and sharing information on Tuscany’s new
digital life, has begun its awareness campaign on this massive project via a
website: www.internetbenecomune.it (in Italian). The aim of the campaign, which modelled its name on an
earlier successful campaign named Acqua Bene Comune (Water, a collective
resource), aims to inform, educate and raise awareness among citizens, private
business, and government offices to ensure the project is approved by every
level of government-local, provincial and regional. Internet Bene Comune is a
grassroots initiative that hopes the involvement of individual citizens will
help Tuscany’s local councils better understand and appreciate the potential of
a web-oriented culture, thus ensuring the successful approval of the plan.

 

A key part of the communication
plan is a piece of ?virtual’ blank paper on which each person may add his or
her 140-character ideas and thoughts (it’s done via a tweet). One of the very
first to sign up to the campaign was the president of the Tuscany himself,
Enrico Rossi. Elsewhere on the site various content is being uploaded,
including videos of local figures and celebrities (among them actors, business
owners, academics) with their personal takes on using the Internet as a
collective, and thus shared resource.

 

Watch out, Iceland. Your puffins
may be surfing on the net from Tuscan beaches soon, cruising for great fish restaurants,
and getting a Mediterranean tan!

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