Spain’s Info XXI Plan Gets Skeptical Reception

[Madrid, January 31] While Spain’s government spent late January promoting
its ambitious “Info XXI Action Plan,” critics called the rehashed,
Internet-for-all initiative a smoke screen and a slave to the private
sector.

Based on the European Union’s e-Europe project, Info XXI includes 332
government initiatives to bring Spain (which tops only Greece and Portugal
in EU-member Net access) further into the wired world.

The $4.57 billion plan promises a broad range of initiatives such as
bringing broadband Internet access to all schools and small towns; forming
new IT workers and helping small and medium businesses ease into the New
Economy; making Social Security, health care and all other government
services available electronically.

The plan, with completion targeted for 2003, also promotes a digital
version of every Spaniard’s National Identity Card.

Prime minister Jose Maria Aznar went to the Basque Country last week to
personally present the initiative, which will rely on all national
government ministries, as well as regional governments and the private
sector.

“Info XXI is really nothing new,” said the Spanish Internet watchdog
Baquia.com “Aznar presented this initiative in Madrid three years ago;
there was no continuity, so now it’s being taken up again.”

While Spain’s 17 regional governments would presumably have juridiction
over implementation and financing of certain apsects of Plan XXI,
agreements have yet to materialize. While Aznar played up the important
financing role of the private sector, serious negotiations reportedly have
yet to begin.

The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, Aznar’s main opposition, calls the
plan unrealistic, given that only 52 percent of the Internet promotion in
last year’s budget came to fruition.

“This is all a fallacy,” parliamentarian Francisca Pleguezuelos told local
press, “It’s hardly credible when you consider that tacking just one year
onto the plan has doubled investments [and that] enforcement of last year’s
budget was reduced to little more than half.”

“This is a plan that can become reality only with the participation of
private initiative,” said Aznar. “Any other way would be absurd.”

The very presentation of the government plan was a corporate endeavor, with
30 companies flipping the bill. According to the business daily Cinco Dias,
30 companies like IBM, Microsoft, Nortel Networks, Philips and Telefonica
Moviles each donated sums of up to one million pesetas ($5,500) for the
opportunity to exhibit their technology at the event.

The exposition never materialized and the companies were simply listed on
event literature as “sponsors” and “collaborators.”

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