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Italy and the Internet

Internet Cafe in Firenze, Italy ( from wikimedia)

The love story between Italians and the internet began in the 1990s, when the world wide web became a common presence in the life of most, without, nevertheless, develop into a full-scale, grand e-business. Many cultural and legal issues probably are behind this lack of modernization, but things are changing. When it comes to services and overall information, Italy is finally providing great content; RAI indeed has probably one of the best portals in the world. The banks finally allowed simple access to internet features, and bill payments online, and even the postal service made it possible to send certified mail via the Internet. However, when it comes to actual sales of tangible goods, people are reluctant to buy online and companies have not developed yet a significant system of e-shops. As a matter of fact, many Italians are still terrified of putting personal data or a credit card number on the Internet. This has led to many companies basically using websites as a fancy business card, but without fully taking advantage of the tremendous potential that the web offers.

Conversely, on a private level, people seem to enjoy web surfing, including the usual social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Youtube is also widely explored, creating copyright infringements in terms of uploading TV shows and films or sport events without permission. Italy is actually one of the worse countries when it come to monitoring copyrights, a bad habit that is extended to DVD and software piracy, as well. A major dispute between Italy and Microsoft actually occurred a few years ago, when Microsoft was asked to open its Explorer and Windows monopoly. When the response was negative, the Italian government became very soft in attacking the black market, creating a very unpleasant situation, aggravated by the fact Italy  is one of the major economies in the world.

As in any other nation, the younger generations seem to lean more towards the use of the Internet, while seniors turn on the computer for very basic matters.  E-mails and travel booking seem to be the most important activities, although film downloading is also a large practice; in general, the illegal ways are preferred to the more traditional ones. In large part this may be due to the fact Italian distribution makes it quite hard for legitimate sales, as famous site such as iTunes are often limited in their services and content. Video-game sharing is another largely practiced activity, another sign that the Internet is perceived as an entertainment vehicle, rather than as a business environment. Providers and web designers are really the only ones making money in Italy, the others are not yet delivering the numbers that e-commerce registers in other countries.

When it comes to newspapers, there is a strange phenomenon: most readers look at websites to find news, but the papers are still holding back the top articles. This makes the internet news less valuable, but it doesn't make the readers buy the actual paper, a circumstance that asks for a permanent change. However, there are serious union restrictions, when it comes to writing, for the web and some of the principal newspapers are fighting for a change: the opposition, though,  is still very strong and powerful.

In one area, the Internet has definitely brought a huge benefit to Italy: tourism exposure, as almost every country has now millions of web sites that promote Italy. Most hotels and restaurants took advantage of the opportunity and entered those virtual circuits that bring tourist right at their door - a system that works very well with limited amount of advertising. In essence, the Internet is still growing as far as a full e-commerce platform, but slowly Italian companies are reacting to it and hopefully soon they will fill the gap between them and other nations. After all, it took a major bubble, years of losing money, and very large investments in the United Sates to bring the Internet to today's levels. Considering how creative Italians can be, we can only expect great things to come.

Last but not least, we should mention Internet access in public places and Internet cafés. Due to some strong anti-terrorism laws, many Wi-Fi services have been monitored, limited or even banned, creating a lot of discomfort to those who travel or need immediate access on the road, although tethering is allowed. Recently, the Italian Internal Affairs Minister announced the revisions of those laws to comply with the needs of the citizens and the increasing demand of Wi-Fi availability. This has been a burden that hopefully will be removed soon.

What do you think ?