As usual, nobody really knows how many people
are on the internet in Italy as everywhere else. But one
thing is clear. The number has increased considerably end is
continuing to grow. The net isnt yet "for
everybody" but its no longer a restricted privilege.
Some research results indicate that half of the people in our
country have no plans to ever use the net. But many of them
will change their minds and in the meantime the other half
of the adult population, either already connected or willing
to come online in a year or two, is over 20 million people.
That is not an unreasonable projection; and its pretty big.
So Italy hasnt become a leader on the net but its no
longer the underdog or the cinderella. We are still far
away from the levels of Northern Europe, but thats the way
we are going. We can stop worrying about how many people are
online and concentrate on who they are and what they
The other day I was discussing this with a friend. Sofia
Postai is one of the best experts in Italy in online
communication and web usability. I said that the internet is
still in its infancy; a bright, lively, promising child...
but its too soon to understand how its going to grow up.
Sofia said that we could also think of it as adolescent. It
has the tantrums and the uneven growth patterns of an early
teenager. Sudden passions, quickly abandoned; unbalance,
discontinuity, unpredictable changes of mood and interest.
And pimples such as the recurring syndrome of technical
fashions that may not be the plague but arent doing any more
good than acne.
I guess both metaphors can work. Worldwide; and more so
in countries, such as Italy, where we are trying to catch up
and everything is even more turbulent and confused. The
problem is what to do in an environment that has no
stabilized pattern and can change quite unpredictably.
In the meantime... something has been rather abruptly
shifted from hyper-fashion to the role of Cinderella. That is
"electronic commerce". Analysts that two years ago
were predicting fantastic growth for online business now have
became the prophets of doom. They produce long lists of
bankruptcies and enterprises in trouble, as well as
fluctuating share prices, and feed the uneasiness of
companies than never really knew how to come to grips with
the new opportunities and now are even more confused and
discouraged. Of course the prophets were wrong when they predicted
impossible results, and they are wrong again now with their gloomy
projections. The truth is somewhere else.
In Italy (as in several other places) the market for
online sales is tiny and not growing. Not for lack of
potential customers, but for the poor quality of the
offering. Anyone looking at the market carefully has known
this for years. The only news is that the problem is becoming
When a "crisis" is announced the solution may
be getting closer. That happens quite often, but not always.
Lets hope that this is the case for e-business. Young
Cinderella is quite cute; she will grow to become a very
attractive woman. She shouldnt worry about her rich
stepsisters, and she shouldnt fall too easily for the many
false princes that dont have the slipper that fits her foot
nor the greedy go-betweens that want to set her up with
some hasty suitor. She shouldnt pay too much attention to
the balls an dances and fashions, or the witches with phony
gold-plated wands or even well-meaning fairies whose magic
ends at midnight. Shes a born winner, but she needs time to
Her life isnt a fairy tale. She shouldnt waste too much
time on the glitter and the hype. Se should concentrate on
who she is, and what she can grow to be. It takes a while...
but its worth it. Probably her real partners, friends and
lovers, who will make her happy and rich, arent any of those
shiny dummies walking around in expensive prince disguises.