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Working document - by Paolo Zanetto
The digital revolution

The digital revolution is here. With the new technologies, the telecommunications, there are no more barriers among the different countries of the world: the information travels at the speed of light, is moving on the Internet, and it can't be stopped at the custom office. In the era of globalisation, the new technologies have knocked down the geographical problems, and they are transforming the whole world into one, amazing global village, of which we are the citizens.

In the History we faced two big revolutionary waves: the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution. The everyday reality is foreseeing the arrival of a third wave: the digital revolution. The central resource is now the knowledge: information, culture, symbols, ideas. We have to be able to ride this wave, and not to be overwhelmed. Surfing over the new wave anyway requires energy, competence, courage: only the youth can have these characteristics. In fact, when it's about new technological instruments, e.g. Internet, it's the youth that has to teach to grown-up people.

The continuous growth of the importance of the new technologies suggests a division between those who have the necessary knowledge and those who are technologically illiterate. This division is first of all generational, and it has on one side the youth, who understand what's happening, and on the other side all those who are granted by the laces of the industrial society and of the trade unions, but who will be inevitably injured by this process of revolution of the society and the economics. We young people are asked to be the players. The reason is easy: our generation is the last one of the old era, but also the first one of the new era, and we're the only one who can face and understand the historical passage from atom to bit, from the physical element to the immaterial element: the ideas are the true exchange good of the so called 'new economy'.

In a society based more on bits than on atoms you don't need big capitals, but big ideas. Five years ago a boy called Jeff Bezos left his job in New York, sold his home and crossed America by car, to Seattle, where he created a company starting with few rented dollars and his idea: selling books trough the Internet. Today the company he founded, Amazon.com, is worldwide known; Bezos created more than 2.500 jobs starting with no money, but with a good idea.

The Amazon.com case is not the only one: looking at the newcomers companies in Wall Street, but now also in the European stock markets, it's clear that something is changed. In Italy, for instance, the stock capitalization of Tiscali, an Internet service provider, is almost the same as the one of Fiat: there's no doubt that cars are more 'physical' than telecommunications, and there's no dobut that Fiat gives work to more people than Tiscali. The fact is that cases like Tiscali, Amazon.com, and all the other companies of the new economy are going to be even more frequent, and we have to begin to consider them as serious successful business, the first line companies of the digital revolution. It's not a mistake of the stock market that is pushing up their value, but the power of the third wave.

In Europe, anyway, there are more problems than in America to exploit the new economy. Opening a company is (in general) more difficult and expensive; taxes on business profits are overwhelming every entrepreneur. Furthermore, finding investments when you have no big capitals by yourself is really an impossible mission: this fact gets discouraged all those who could build new companies, new wealth, new job places.

It's absolutely necessary that also in the European Union we have more venture capital firms. Moreover, we have to facilitate the creation and the development of the new economy companies, through a system of fiscal aids, e.g. the de-taxation of the corporate investments in E-commerce. That's the only way to let young entrepreneurs transform their dreams, their ideas, in a strategic result that could be the added value of the whole Europe.

The new economy phenomenon, just like the Internet, is absolutely global, it doesn't accept barriers. The policy of the single State can't do much to stop the digital revolution wave: it just can open the doors, unblock those gears that can't hold up the push, because they are rusted. These are the gears of the lack of competition, of the absurd warranties for the privileged people. The role of politics is to help the social change, help young people and those who understand what's happening to surf over the wave.

The new digital challenges require some expertise: the knowledge of English language, of computer, of the Internet, of the basic principles of the enterprise. Above all, to accept this challenge you need the courage to go towards the new, to be open to the rules of the global market. It's not easy, the conservative and reactionary response will be very strong, and it will come from the Left: those political forces that are defending the privileges, the bureaucracy, the old-fashioned trade unions, will do everything to defend their own power. Politics has got two choices: teach young people the necessary expertise, or defend the old world and let it be progressively overwhelmed by the new.

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