RealTime IT News

Spain's Netizens Get Promises, Prizes

With Spanish Internet use still lagging behind that of its northern neighbors, politicians and netizen advocates this week called for improved government and private sector strategizing.

President José Maria Aznar, in his address at "Mundo Internet 2000," Spain's fifth annual Internet and Extranet users' conference, defended universal, flat rate access and promised that by 2004 most citizen-government institution interaction would occur via Internet.

Aznar called for the online presence of small- and medium-sized businesses as a magnet for employment, and reiterated his plan to improve Net access in libraries, post offices and cultural centers. Internet access in primary and secondary schools currently stands at 75 percent and 93 percent, respectively.

Rafael Arias Salgado, public works minister, vowed to fight "digital illiteracy" and announced planned legislation to regulate all aspects of e-commerce in accordance with European Union standards.

Miguel Pérez Submas, president of the Spanish Internet Users Association (AUI), however, said that what is most needed to promote Internet development in Spain is a coordinated strategy.

"We need to make it so companies and users can work in conditions of quality, performance and pricing similar to those of neighboring countries," said Pirez.

"To the contrary, our companies, businesses and applications will emigrate beyond our borders."

One novelty meant to walk the talk was the first-ever "Capital/Internet Ideas" encounter, whereby Internet entrepreneurs presented their ideas publicly before a critical board of venture capitalists. The AUI and a href="http://www.baquia.com">Baquia.com organized the encounter, which drew 1,200 attendees.

According to Pérez, the the secret behind the Internet's success in Spain will doubtless include citizen education, continued liberalization of the telecommunications sector, improved quality access, and the establishment of a pricing system geared toward digital transmission.

Despite the advent of new telecommunications companies and the proliferation of free Internet access offers, Net use for most Spaniards still still means paying the elevated cost of local voice calls to use Telefónica's still-dominant infrastructure.

Some companies have opted for Telefónica's "flat rate" service through a special modem and ADSL technology, though pricing makes it prohibitive for most Spaniards' home use.

Aznar, to illustrate his own stated commitment to Net use, unveiled his own personal home page, just in time for upcoming elections.

The AUI's fourth annual award for best Spanish web site, nonetheless, went to World Online.

Barrabés received recognition as the Spanish company best integrating the Internet into its development strategy.

The prize for best Hispanic Web site dedicated to leisure and entertainment went to Anaya Educación, and the best personal Hispanic Web page went to José Tero.

Moreover, a special AUI prize for "personal contribution to Internet development in 1999" went to ICANN boardmember Amadeu Abril i Abril.

Mundo Internet 2000 was held in Madrid, February 2-5.