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.

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