Stet by Ria Bacon

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Dove trovo il tasto "any"?

The World Economic forum has just published its Global Information Technology Report 2004-2005 which assesses "the state of the networked readiness of 104 economies". Top of the charts is Singapore, where half the population is selling duty-free hi-tech stuff to the other half, and Iceland, where all six people know how to use a computer to check the weather forecast ("Oh no. Snow again."). Italy boasts the seventh largest economy in the world, yet in the Technology Report it is ranked 45, down from 28th place last year. Where's the money coming from? How many shoes can people buy? (This is a rhetorical question.) I reckon there's some fine Parmalat book-cooking going on.

The reality is that Italy is not very well connected. Given the choice, most Italians would prefer a new telefonino to chat to their girlfriends rather than a computer to surf the interweb. I'll give you two true stories, but you mustn't pass them on to the World Economic Forum or else Italy will be below Botswana next year.

Last year, I worked in a French Catholic school in Rome, run by Dominican nuns. The office had two secretaries, one who worked in the mornings only and the other who worked the afternoons. On the office computer were two files, yes, only two. One file belonged to the morning secretary, the other to the afternoon one. When I asked one of the secretaries to print off a copy of my contract, she opened her file and scrolled down ... down ... down ... to where she had added my contract. All her documents were in a single Word file.

The second story is also Catholic-related (hmm, Vatican City is not in the Report) and comes from the office of a cardinal. He was well past normal retirement age and had devoted his life to the Church, sacrificing the pleasures of cooking, cleaning and washing his clothes, which was all done by devoted nuns. He kept up a vast correspondence across the world but never wrote a letter himself, preferring to dictate to his secretary. The secretary had a computer but used it like a typewriter, hitting Enter at the end of each line. I once watched her work. She typed the letter, printed it out, filed the paper copy in one of the numerous filing cabinets, then deleted the text from the computer file. Gospel truth!

Et plus ça change ...

Ur-tech

Techie
: It's the latest generation of computers: 16 colours, with a fixed drive and mouse.
King's adviser: You should wait a bit. In 6 months it'll be half the price.
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