Friday, 6 April 2007

Neàpolis – the future can wait

The ajuntament of Vilanova worries about the sensitivity of the local labour market in a globalized world. Like in many places in Europe, they have identified the knowledge based society to be the solution. Different to other places, we are not exactly rushing to get there.

Every time I go to my gym, in Rambla de l'Exposició I pass by the construction site of a modern building with a name that fires my imagination: Neàpolis – "l’Espai de la tecnologia i les idees". Information boards explain that this will be a reference for the whole of Catalonia in terms of research and development of new communication technologies. What an interesting initiative for a small town like this. How strange that for almost two years there never seemed to be any workers to finish the project.

Reading between the lines in the materials we receive from the ajuntament, Neàpolis is one of those projects which simply got too expensive for a fast completion. The plan, as originally presented in 2000 was grandiose, aiming to make Vilanova “a city of the new millennium”. The centre should attract state-of-the-art communication bodies and thus create a nursery for information based enterprise. At the same time, it should have the democratic goal to spread the benefits of new technology to all parts of society. Elderly people and primary school children, people with handicaps – nobody should be left behind.

Some weeks ago, action suddenly started again and recently the protective fence was removed. According to the latest issue of ‘08800 – la revista de VNG’, our local authorities’ official information magazine, the centre will open up already by the end of April. I expressed my surprise about this change of pace to a colleague at work, who explained that it was perfectly normal. Since we will have municipal elections later this spring, the incumbent majorities of all towns need to move all half-finished projects forward to prove their efficiency.

ITCat, the Infrastructure and Telecommunication authority of Catalonia will move its headquarters here which guarantees a certain importance and the generalitat is promising to promote the centre further on the regional level. Our local TV-station Canal Blau and some radio stations will be among the other tenants early to move in. The initial success is granted so local politicians will have a lot to celebrate with the opening.

What remains to see is what comes next. To fill a fancy building with more or less publicly financed institutions is easy. To create a technology centre open to all citizens, as of the original plan, is a much bigger challenge. Until now, all news items on Neàpolis seem to leave out that part of the project and I have a feeling that the people of our town have lowered their expectations. Having waited since the year 2000, and with domestic broadband connections being cheap nowadays, I guess that anyone being a bit interested in new technology has stopped hoping for the authorities to open the way to the future.

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