Cybertown: Villena’s Virtual Town-Hall

European Magazine  London, 1996, 900 words; extracts  


Meanwhile, ideas for local applications have been flowing in. They include dominoes for senior citizens, a screen debate on the town's September fiestas - when 12,000 people take to the streets in a street battle between medieval Moors and Christians - and relaxation-to-music sessions. Tortosa's own pet project is to put the sheet music of the municipal bands' original tunes on-line with an accompanying sound-track.

The mayor’s secretary suggests it may be precisely local pride which raises the town’s computer literacy to its critical take-off point.


In fact Villena's virtual town-hall is only a small first step in a more ambitious plan called Infoville, which aims to turn Valencia region's 4 million inhabitants on to information technology….

The sense of urgency may seem curious against the Mediterranean backdrop of vineyards and sierras. But the economy here is structured around typically small to mid-size family companies - shoe, furniture, ceramics, paper and textile manufacturers  - who are struggling to hold their own... in vital export markets....

Information technology, argue the economists, could solve their distribution and marketing problems.... This is the thinking which underlies the choice of Villena for a limited trial-run: it has a stable population, a balanced economy with considerable exports, such as children’s shoes, which stand to benefit from a connected culture, plus, finally, an open-minded young population.

"We wanted the project to be taken as a challenge," explains Antonio Perales, director of OVSI, the company set up by the Valencian regional government to implement Infoville.

Jose Francisco Navarro, the mayor's secretary, suggests it may be precisely local community pride which raises the town's computer-literacy to its critical take-off point. As he puts it, "Just because you've got a desk-top computer doesn't mean you have to give up eating snails and drinking wine on summer nights...."

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