In trying to overcome the disadvantages inherent in its peripheral location,
Extremadura is focusing on the IT and telecommunications sectors (NICT).
The regional government has pioneered this approach as an answer to the
resource gap suffered by economic and social bodies in certain parts of
||From the outset, the priorities of the
Extremadura IT strategy were to modernise the manufacturing base,
improve local services, reduce inequalities between rural and urban
areas and spur integration between Spain and Portugal.
The project was launched in 1997 with the creation of Infodex, an organisation
financed in equal parts by the regional government and the Structural
Funds under RISI (the regional IT initiative). Infodex was tasked with
compiling a study of the situation and drawing up a list of requirements
- based on this information, an IT strategy would then be developed.
The centrepiece of the whole endeavour is the creation of "Extremadura
intranet", a regional network with which secondary networks can be
bundled and which will eventually provide access for end-users via a total
of 1478 terminals across the entire region. The contract for this work
was awarded to the Spanish telecommunications operator Retevision, and
the intranet is expected to go live in the second half of 2002.
Alongside these infrastructure projects, the region has also launched
various sectoral projects to provide content for the networks. Foremost
among these is the technological learning network.
"The hardware that will hook 123 primary schools up to this intranet
network has started to be delivered", explained one of Infodex's
managers. "At the same time, teachers have begun training in the
18 centres run by the network across the region.
They will pass on what they learn to their pupils".
Other strategic projects include the Extremadura healthcare network (still
in its early stages), two business incubators (in Badajoz and Cáceres)
catering for technology start-ups, an on-line exchange, and a project
called "New centres of learning", covering themes such as literacy
and social rehabilitation, which already has 32 centres throughout the
This ambitious undertaking could not have got off the ground without the
help of the Community's Structural Funds. The new operational programme
for Extremadura (2000-2006 period) also contains a special funding strand
worth some EUR 37.8 million for IT schemes. At the same time, the region
also stands to benefit from the national IT development programme once
it is adopted by the Commission. This multi-regional programme, financed
from a single fund (the ERDF) and with a budget of EUR 446.6 million from
the Community, will focus mainly on measures to stimulate demand for technology,
primarily by targeting the small business sector and public services.
Finally, the region will also be submitting projects under the regional
For more information, go to the Extremadura
government homepage .
Closing the gap
Geographically speaking, Extremadura is most certainly a peripheral area,
lying at the extreme southwestern corner of the European Union, between
the centre of the Iberian Peninsula and Portugal. The inhabitants of this
Autonomous Region are thinly spread - population density barely reaches
26 inhabitants per square kilometre, with only 7 of its 382 local authorities
above 25 000 inhabitants.
In economic terms, Extremadura belongs to Europe's "less developed"
regions, with GDP a mere 50% of the Community average. Agriculture remains
the bedrock of the local economy, providing the basis for a myriad of
other activities such as agri-business and farming services. Average productivity
is low and the ageing population is beset with a 25.5% unemployment rate.
Eligible for support under Objective 1 of the Structural Funds as well
as the Cohesion Fund, Extremadura has used Community funding to close
the gap with other regions. In the 1994-99 programming period, it concentrated
on improving communications in the region by modernising and extending
transport, telecommunications and energy networks, and on environmental
schemes (cleaning up national parks, reforestation, waste management,
In the 2000-2006 period, the region is set to receive assistance worth
EUR 2.1 billion from the Structural Funds. The operational programme for
Extremadura centres on two general goals: building up the economic base
and decreasing the unemployment rate.
These goals are to be attained by investing in transport and education
infrastructure, introducing measures to efficiently manage Extremadura's
considerable environmental resources, improve skills levels in the local
population and promote the spread of information technology. The Cohesion
Fund will continue to support water-supply and purification projects and
waste-management schemes, as well as the development of transport infrastructure,
such as the rail links between Portugal and Spain.
|Total land area:
41 634 km2
1 070 244 (1997)
50% of EU average (1998)
Interview: The information age
Juan Carlos Rodríguez Ibarra,
President of the Autonomous Region of Extremadura
||With the enlargement of
the European Union towards the East, don't you think Spain, and especially
Extremadura, risk more than ever being marginalised in Europe?
That sort of thinking really is a relic of the industrial age - it
just doesn't hold water in the information age. How otherwise can
you explain the success of two other countries on the edge of the
EU, Finland and Ireland? The issue today is not whether a region is
peripheral or not, but rather: how does each individual see their
role in the global village, a digital and on-line village?
Is your region well-placed to face the challenges of the information
Well, we've been developing the e-economy here for a good four years now
- even before the Spanish government set their minds to it!
But isn't it true that you'll be held back by the economic and demographic
profile of Extremadura? The big telecommunications companies are hard
to attract without some pretty solid guarantees of earnings prospects...
.In Extremadura we've taken steps to ensure that we won't be at the
whim of the big financial groups. Rather than waiting for the information
revolution to come to us - as happened with cash machines and mobile phones
- we're confident that, once they are properly trained and the proper
infrastructure is in place, progress will be driven by local people.
And how do you intend to bring about such a drastic change in attitudes?
By taking the initiative with a strategy centred on the man in the street.
The policy is twofold. Firstly we are building our own network, "Extremadura
intranet". This will bundle together all the services provided by
the regional authorities and be available to all sections - both private
and public - of society and the economy. Second, we are creating public
access and training centres to familiarise the public with new technologies
and help them make it part of their daily lives. This technological literacy
campaign starts in the schools to eventually cover the whole population.