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Beware of geeks

bearing incentives

December 1998

disponibile anche in Italiano

  Giancarlo Livraghi
For other comments on internet marketing
see the Netmarketing online newsletter



  The holiday season is bringing gifts for the internet. Mainstream media in Italy seem to have switched from hate to love (more comments on this in issue 29 of the Netmarketing newsletter) and authorities are promising "incentives" to widen net use in our country.

At the national convention of the ISP association on November 27 several government representatives said that (at last) they are aware of how undeveloped we are in this area and promised to "do something about it".

Should we celebrate? In a way... I guess so. But we should be careful. The hype is quite nonsensical, but it may help to persuade more people to get connected. An awareness of the problem may lead to some useful solutions. But some careful thinking is needed before we can be happy with how these "incentives" will take shape.

Providers are challenging the Telecom monopoly. If they succeed, that may help to open a better competitive environment.

Legislation is being considered to reduce phone charges for people connected to the net. That of course is a good idea, but the directives are vague. Who an how will benefit from these new tariffs? Will some users be favored at the expense of others? Who will bear the cost?

They are planning to encourage home use. That’s right, because we are particularly weak in that area. But what about companies? Are they going to encourage entrepreneurs (especially "small and medium enterprises") to use the net for their worldwide development – or add more red tape to already stifling regulations?

There were talks about incentives to encourage the replacement of old computers with new. That, I think, is ridiculous. It would benefit only people that already have computers (and therefore have no problem getting connected) and support the already exaggerated trend to unnecessary "upgrades". What we need is quite the opposite: a way of making inexpensive computers and "light" technology available to people who are deterred by the high cost of overpowerful machines. And some healthy education on how to connect effectively with "old" computers that have all the power most people can possibly need.

Let’s enjoy the party; but we should keep our eyes open. We’ve had too much experience with "incentives" that don’t work, or help only a few big interests; or regulations that seem intended to "help" but turn out to be an addition to the already unbearable burden of bureaucracy.


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