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Backward Italy... but good possibilities

February 1998
disponibile anche in Italiano

  Giancarlo Livraghi
For other comments on internet marketing
see the Netmarketing online newsletter


There are three things I would like to say at the very beginning of this new column. First of all, I tend to speak my mind very candidly; and some of my opinions may be controversial. I am always willing to hear other people's opinions, with interest and respect. Silvio Ceccato is well known in Italy for his teachings in cybernetics, but he is also a teacher of humanity. He often quotes a saying that sounds Confucian: If you give me a coin and I give you a coin, we both have one coin. If I give you an idea and you give me an idea, each of us has two ideas. Information and diversity are richness. I hope to increase my wealth of ideas by exchanging thoughts with the readers of this column - and of everything else I write.

My second observation is that if today I discuss numbers, I don't plan to do so very often. There are too many numbers floating around on the internet, and often they are quite meaningless - or confusing. We can ignore them. The net is not, and never will be, a "mass market"; it's an environment in which small numbers can be quite important.

Finally - sometimes, when I say that the net is in its infancy and there's a long road ahead of us, calls me a "pessimist". Quite to the contrary, it takes a considerable degree of optimism to believe, as I do, that the net is important and potentially a major revolution, in society as a whole as well as in marketing (it can, sometimes, be "electronic commerce" but certainly is not just that). So far, there is not much; and most of it is done poorly. Optimism can not be based on delusions or exaggerated expectations, that lead only to disappointment. It must be based on a serious evaluation of facts (that often are not encouraging) and on asking ourselves how we can do things better.

Let's look at his little graph, that is based on a simple analysis of publicly available data:

Internet hosts in European Union countries in relation to GNP

(Based on data by RIPE - Réseaux IP Européens - December 30, 1997)
  Ratio of Internet hosts to GNP in EU
  The situation in France is underestimated, because the data don't include minitel. If and when the French government succeeds in its intent to encourage the switching of activity from the minitel to the internet, France will have a net penetration comparable to Germany, if not to the UK.

Italy is way behind. Our country has 12 percent of Europe's GNP, 14 percent of the motorcars, 10 percent of the telephones... but only 4 percent of the net. And we are not catching up. In the second half of 1997 Italy has a 1 percent monthly increase of hostcount, against a European average of 2.5 percent in the same period.

Should we have tantrums and weep? That's a waste of time and temper. We should roll up our sleeves and try to fix the problem. We can do it. Many Italian companies have imagination, patience, consistency, flexibility, a dedication to service, an ability to adjust to change - and to sell worldwide. They are ideally suited to win on the net and with the net. The problem is not technology; it's culture, mentality and finding the right approach. That is what I shall try to discuss in the following issues of this column.



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