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|Mainstream media in my country seem suddenly in love with the internet. They are still
printing and broadcasting lots of nonsense, but now theres more hype than horror.
They are telling us that christmas shopping this year will be all electronic; gifts will
be not only videogames and cellular phones, but also computers and net connections (only
after the holiday season we shall know if any of that is actually happening). One of the
main tv networks, in peaktime news, said that this year people are doing most of their
shopping online forgetting that "electronic commerce" in Italy is in its
infancy, if born al all. Major newspapers and newsmagazines are publishing weekly
supplements about the internet (threatening the survival of specialized magazines, of
which there were too many and some have disappeared).
All this is probably due to the convergence of several factors, including a recognition of the importance of the internet by several authorities even the Pope, who a while ago was warning against the dangers of modern technologies, now is "blessing" the net as s tool for knowledge and education.
Another influence, with less solemnity but considerable impact, is the intense advertising campaign launched by Telecom Italia (especially in television) to sell internet connections. Like other European telcoms, our national telephone company (recently privatized, but still holding a dominant position) is also an ISP, holding over 50 percent of the market and determined to increase its share. Its position has come under attack by the other ISPs and is being examined by the antitrust authority; its advertising has been found misleading. Telecoms activities are, indeed, questionable. However this surge of communication (advertising end editorial) may help to spread the use of the net (especially at home) and reduce the still wide gap between Italy and the other major European economies.
Unfortunately all of this hype is very simplistic and superficial. Newcomers will have to do a lot of work on their own to find the real values of the net at least until the media, and the educators, will begin to do their job a little better.
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|Recent hostcount data arent encouraging. Italy seemed to be catching up earlier
this year but in recent months has been losing ground as compared to the rest of Europe.
Short-term data arent very relevant; we shall need a few more months to understand
This analysis is based on the data reported by RIPE (Réseaux IP Européens) on December 7, for 22 countries in the Europe-Mediterranean area.
Northern Europe is becoming more balanced, with slower growth in high-density countries such as Finland and Norway and other countries catching up. Southern Europe remains weak, but France, Spain and Greece are growing faster than Italy.
This is an updated graph of hostcount growth in Italy compared to Europe:
The trend is unstable. Italys share of the net in Europe (now 4.7 percent) is still below the "peak" (5.2 percent) that was reached in August 1997.
Here is an updated graph of internet density in 24 countries in the
The general pattern remains the same as we had seen in past months. Germany remains below the European Union average and the United Kingdom holds its lead among the large European countries. Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium show considerable growth. Spain has overtaken (once again) Italy and now is also ahead of the Czech Republic. Hungary is ahead of France if we dont consider minitel.
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|As I mentioned in issue 28, theres much
more to be learnt from the candid comments of people actively working in the field and
facing the realities than from most of the hype-driven articles, books, lectures and
conferences. Its not always easy to have such comments in writing and to be allowed
to quote them. I am grateful to Nicola Salvi for his
permission to publish his interesting remarks.
I have little to add. Its quite obvious that nobody has "experience". This is all too new (and changing) for anyone to be an "expert". The solution is to admit the lack of expertise and therefore work with all the patience, and willingness to experiment, that we need in a new environment. If companies are confused and skeptical, thats because too many people are trying to sell them simplistic and repetitive formulas that dont fit their needs; and also because too many self-appointed "teachers" are making promises that no one can keep.
The only way out from the vicious circle is to start from scratch. Which are the companys needs and objectives? Which are the opportunities of improving its efficiency and competitive edge with new communication tools? Which service values can be improved or enhanced? Where are the synergies? This analysis is much less complex in practice than in theory (the number of variables can be theoretically infinite, but in the reality of a single case it boils down to a few specific factors). The bewildering fact is that this is hardly ever done. Companies are told that "they should have a website" with no definition of why and how; and then those sites are filled up with "just about anything" to justify their existence. The obvious result is that entrepreneurs hesitate; or, if they do it, the results are disappointing. To follow the right course (which is exactly the opposite) we dont need an expertise that nobody has; nor complex technological solutions . The basic ingredient is a strong dose of common sense.
I dont think anyone should be doing business on the net without a clear understanding of objectives, a willingness to experiment and an idea of how results are to be evaluated.
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|This is the subject of an interesting article by Clay
Shirky. Its worth reading in full; but here are some of his comments.
I find these observations quite stimulating. In my view, there are three key points. Many technical "innovations" are useless, if not harmful. Open solutions are much better than closed or proprietary systems. And, above all, the net is made of people; technologies and services are meaningful only when they satisfy peoples needs and desires.
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|"Should people use a corporate mailbox for their private correspondence?"
I must admit I had never given much thought to this matter, until the question was asked
by an executive who is following closely the development of internet activity in his
company. He made me understand that the question is quite relevant. And the answer, I
think, is no.
People are normally allowed to use the office phone for private calls. But e-mail is mail. Using a corporate mailbox is like using the companys letterhead. Each person should have two mailboxes. This, by the way, solves also a privacy problem: a company can legitimately inspect office papers, including mail, but should not be allowed to spy on the private correspondence of its employees.