Cybertown: Villena’s Virtual Town-Hall

European Magazine  London, 1996, 900 words; extracts  

2/cont. 

So how, then, did Villena react to the experiment? By midsummer 1995 it was estimated that enough people had signed up to give 40% of the town's 30,000 residents domestic access to a desktop.

Scepticism was a bigger problem than logistics or technical glitches. ‘But as soon as there were computers and applications to be seen,’ says Jesús Tolosa,‘the whole thing swung round.’

"I'd say it'll be part of everyday life within a year," comments Paco Ferri, aged 41. He has bought two computers, one for home and the other for his ironmongery. "At home we're already having to limit the time the children spend on it. At the ironmongery we'll use it to sell through teleshopping, but it's great to have it in for making a doctor's appointment and so on."

Initially, scepticism was a bigger problem than either logistics or technical glitches. "For the first ten months we were giving seminars to different groups every day without knowing if we were making headway," says Jesús Tortosa, head of the town-hall's computer department. "Then, as soon as there were computers and applications to be seen, the whole thing swung round...."

FROM THE BOTTOM UP

Nearly 70% of the 2,200 computers are in homes. One of the first to go on line was Jesús Martinez, aged 24 and currently unemployed. He lives with his parents in a small flat and keeps his computer in his bedroom. "Everybody likes the idea now. Of course, whether or not they use it is another matter." He checks out job opportunities on-screen every day, reads several foreign newspapers and found a camping site for his Easter holiday on the net. His sister also uses the computer, but not his parents.

. . . .

Teleshopping has not yet really taken off, but a clutch of businesses have signed on and the town's market is planning a shared terminal for stall-holders orders of bread, sausages, wine and other produce for delivery. In the long term e-mail is expected to become one of the most popular services given the expense of telephone calls in Spain  - national average use is, unbelievably, only 3 minutes per person per day because of the expense of making a call.

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