The Government in the Net

Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
4 July, 2017
Editorial: 111
Fecha de publicación original: 17 marzo, 1998

A great good was never got with little pains

Depending on how you look at it, Spain comes 10th in the world in the list of countries with the most inhabitants connected to the Internet, or 23rd if one takes into account the number of internauts in proportion to the total number of inhabitants in the country. If we apply the latter criteria, then Catalonia jumps into 12th place (cf. the table at the end of this article drawn up by ISOC-Cat based on NUA data). In both these statistics, the list is headed by the main industrialised countries led by the Scandinavians, Canada and the US. However, if one takes the information policy of each country into account, particularly what Alfons Cornella calls the “basic equation of the Information Society”, according to which if the “information economy” (infrastructure) is added (or multiplied, the debate still rages on), to the “information culture” (infostructure), the result is how close one is to the “Information Society”, then one would come up with a very different answer. At the moment, we are in the position where private info-structure, supported by thousands of companies and individuals who have taken the Net by storm, are taking the initiative despite the difficulties which are particularly remarkable in this part of the world, namely the absence of any viable state information policy (with a few notable and healthy exceptions) and what we could call “financial abstention”, in other words, the lack of participation by banks to encourage this new industrial sector based on information and knowledge. Today we will take a look at the first problem–information policy– from a general point of view, and focus on the situation in Catalonia next week.

While European governments, in general, continue to view events in the Net with suspicion, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which incorporates 29 of the most industrialised nations, has just published a report called “Towards a Global Information Society” (there are versions in English and French) where they tactfully, but firmly, give these governments a public dressing-down. After pointing out the growing importance of the sector fed by information technology with a profusion of data and analysing tendencies, the document (which does not, by the way, include the web address of the OECD) goes on to say that governments also have an important role to play as catalysts for the enhanced use and development of the Information Society. In its opinion there are seven areas in which it should play a decisive role:

Encouraging private sector investment

Stimulating the growth of new demand

Creating incentives for the strategic research and the development of new applications

Developing programmes and new applications

Launching user-oriented pilot projects and promotional activities

Providing test-beds for experimentation for work in the Net

Promoting international co-operation in these areas.

These seven points constitute not only an excellent plan of action for public policy, but, also, a real test of just how much public administration is prepared to take seriously the emergence of a sector that is beginning to invade all the spheres of our lives, from industry and the economy, to cultural life, education, knowledge, politics and leisure. It is an agenda, in short, which if we gave points for fulfilling each of these objectives, would even give us some indication as to the official position of each country regarding the Information Society. Particularly, if we include some other aspects which the report especially emphasises such as the role of info-structures and networked applications in the field of education, both from the point of view of broadening knowledge horizons along the length and breadth of the educational process, and also of job creation by improving the qualifications and prospects of workers.

While it is certainly true that some European countries are already laying the foundations of the Information Society by developing policies of this kind, such as is the case of the Scandinavian countries, in particular Denmark with its Denmark Information Society 2000 project, it is nevertheless peculiar –to say the least– that every time one of our politicians refers to the Internet, the message sounds more as if it comes from someone who has just been mugged in the street than from someone concerned about the present and future of their country and its people.

Translation: Bridget King


Source: NUA/ISOC-Cat

Some interesting surprises:

1. Norway is the country with the most people connected to the Net and it is the leader of a group of European Nordic countries with the highest % of connected population.

2. Canada surpasses the US in % of people connected.

3. Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Australia are the driving force of the Internet in Asia.

4. Spain (particularly Catalonia, 7.2) and Israel (4.0) have the highest rate in the Mediterranean.

5. Estonia and Slovakia are the leaders in Eastern Europe.

6. Costa Rica, in Central America, is the country with most connected inhabitants, a similar level to Germany (5.0)

7. Germany and France, two leading countries in the European Union, have a very low percentage of people connected: Germany 5.0 and France, 2.4.

8. Japan (6.4) has a similar rate of Internet connections to Taiwan (6.0).

9. South Africa is the most connected on the African continent (1.8)

10. Brazil is the most connected Latin American country in absolute numbers but with a very low % of people in relative terms.(0.6)