Sunday, 8 November 2009

A wonderful country

Massimo Mantellini says (my quick translation, powered by Google):

«We are a wonderful country. Only in a wonderful country can the Government justify its failure to allocate funds to broadband by saying that technological development, a priority everywhere else deemed essential to overcome the crisis, will be the top priority for the Government immediately after the crisis is over. What's more, the Government can comfortably express these concepts, without anyone asking why the bridge between Calabria and Sicily and the new motorways in Lombardy (over 4.1 billion Euros approved in the same meeting in which the 800 million Euros for broadband were blocked) weren't similarly postponed.

We are also wonderful for other reasons. Firstly, because the stop-and-go over the last few months between the Government and the Telcos, who are anxious to get their hands on public funds for broadband, ends with the Government not even slightly embarrassed of having made promises that vanished in thin air. We are also wonderful because the Employers' Association one day yells for the abolition of the IRAP tax, and the next day is shocked at the lack of investment in broadband, following the very convenient argument that everything is equally urgent, as long as the money is not theirs. And we are wonderful even thanks to the political opposition, who rant today about inadequate investments in innovation by the Berlusconi government, forgetting their own, absolutely identical, shortcomings less that two years ago.

The situation is what we're accustomed to: an overwhelming predominance of words over facts and a tedious uniformity of views on issues that would instead require creativity and a search for discontinuity.

And the context is that of a country that is far from a virtuous path of innovation not so much because of infrastructure, but rather in its values and ideals. The overwhelming assumption, widespread at all levels, is that the day in which 100% of people will be reached by broadband, the issue will be definitively resolved. We bask in the sociological analysis of so-called "digital natives", as if to say "look, maybe today the landscape is bleak, but tomorrow's adults, who grew up in the era of the Internet, will have other needs and other expectations". Are we really confident that this will happen? We suggest to the many enthusiastic supporters of "digital nativity" that they visit a university, where those young people who grew up with e-mail and YouTube spend most of their time, to get an idea of the level of "technological culture" of this country. They would go home with somewhat less confidence.

The 800 million Euros for broadband are indeed important and the recent decision of the Berlusconi government is consistent with the usual myopia to which Italian politics has accustomed us over the last decade. Nothing that we haven't already seen, nothing that was not reasonably expected. But the latest Government's decision worsens only minimally the gigantic problem of a nation that has the same love for technology of that of cats for water.

We need long-term policies centered on schools and technological literacy, we need authentic information about the value of the Internet, we need incentives targeted at families to address the cultural impasse of the 50% of Italians that continually upgrade their expensive smartphones and still don't have a computer at home. We need to talk about the Internet, even on TV, as the great opportunity that it is. And then of course we also need better infrastructure, but without deluding ourselves that the problem lies all there.»

Yes, we can?

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