Spain's "Mundo Internet" Shuns Slowdown Concerns
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(Madrid, Spain--February 13) If trades shows are an indication of economic health, European IT firms may have cause for optimism. Unlike their stateside New Economy counterparts, picking though the pieces of the "dot-com crash" and portrayed as flogging an aging tortoise, firms converged on Mundo Internet 2001 last week under the oft cited conviction that Europe will replace the U.S. as the economic motor of the coming decade.
While U.S. shows like the recent Macworld Expo cut back on the schwag and dissimulated the gaping holes where vendors once dwelled, Spain's top gathering of the digerati had to erect temporary tents to accommodate the 30 percent attendance growth over last years show.
"We're in a crucial year for defining the world of applications and services," said Miguel Perez Subias, president of the Spanish Internet Users' Association (AUI). "These should find backbone in Spain's emerging telecommunications infrastructure and in the collective demand of the growing number of users. This has already reached 23 percent of Spaniards and is going to see spectacular growth in coming months."
Speakers from around Europe and the U.S. came to discuss everything from e-commerce and high-speed mobile telephony to interactive television and broadband Net access. If some U.S. firms are retreating to lick their wounds, the Spanish show featured such forward-looking seminars as "International Expansion: Europe and/or Africa. The Great Strategic Dilemma."
Don Felipe de Borbon, Spain's prince, defended expansion to Latin America on purely cultural grounds.
"Spain can and must share its projected Knowledge Society with all of those who share our language," said the heir to the Spanish throne.
Regardless of the ups and downs of high-tech indices such as the Nasdaq or Spains Nuevo Mercado, "the real point of inflection is going to be the expectations of users," said Francisco Roman, president of Microsoft Iberica.
"Net use in Spain has doubled. Before it was way behind [the rest of] Europe and the U.S. Why? Because there was no content," said Esteban Lam, commercial division director for Microsoft Online Business. "But now that is changing. When users were offered soccer, for example, use skyrocketed."
As is customary, the AUI presented annual awards for the best Spanish work on the Web. GeoPlaneta [www.geoplaneta.com ] received the Best Webpage award while the prize for best company site went to the wire service Efe [www.efe.es]. The best leisure and entertainment trophy went to Barcelona Virtual for www.terramiticapark.com. Joan Martm Mas's personal homepage [www.mundofree.com/joanmmas] was considered the best of its kind at the national level.
One award is always reserved for the journalist with the most influential Web coverage. This year's recipient was Isabel Duran, known for her Net-oriented program "Enredate."