Intellectual Centers of Medieval Europe

October 26, 2004

Sicily a High-Tech Leader; Sardinia Close Behind

October 13, 2004

Italian Tech Volcano Set to Erupt

By Mila Fiordalisi
Wired News, Feb 2001

ROME - Italy's answer to Silicon Valley has taken root and is beginning to thrive. The surprising thing is that this isn't happening in the north — Italy's traditional region for industry and commerce — but in the deep south, hard by Sicily's Mt. Etna.

After decades of economic domination by the northern part of the country, the more rural and agrarian south — including the island of Sicily — is showing signs of flexing some economic muscle. The reason: the influx of technology and Internet companies, a trend that people living there hope means the dawn of better economic times.

The towns of Catania and Palermo, in particular, are being eyed with keen interest by entrepreneurs, telecom operators and Web companies who see this as fertile — and affordable — ground to develop. A lot of Italian and international companies are opening offices in Sicily, where the intellectual resources are plentiful and firms can benefit from additional national and European funding. The region of Sicily, in fact, is part of the EU's Zone One for investments.


Government help aside, it's the arrival of high technology that has really stoked the fires of economic change in southern Italy. According to Federcomin (The Federation of Confindustria, which represents roughly 1,000 telecoms), "the penetration of the new technologies [among] Italian families is higher in the south than in the rest of the country."

Although the north still leads the south in terms of wired families (38 percent have computers, compared to 33 percent in the south), the overall growth rate is higher south of Rome. Italians are already cell phone crazy (they spend an average of 2.4 million Lira (US$1,150) per person per year), and analysts expect an annual 40 percent increase in pay-TV subscriptions.


Cities On Line, for example, employs 410 network systems analysts, projectors and Web applications experts at offices in Catania, Palermo and Ragusa. STMicroelectronics is looking for 1,500 engineers, information specialists and technicians, while Computer Science Corporation is expected to add 1,500 jobs within two years.

Says Pasquale Pistorio, president and CEO of STMicroelectronics: "Contrary to Silicon Valley, Catania's Etna Valley, with its more than 50,000 students at the local university ... offers privileged access to that most important resource: brains; highly skilled, highly educated brains."


INSIDE TRACK: A high-tech eruption in Etna Valley:

ITALY'S TECHNOLOGICAL REVOLUTION: Long plagued by poverty and crime, the south is becoming a centre of the new economy.

By Paul Betts
Ministro per l'Innovazione e le Tecnologie, 2002


But first impressions are deceptive and no more so than in Catania. In a country where they still believe in miracles, this rambling port city under Europe's biggest active volcano, long a stereotype of Italy's desperate and depressed deep south, is undergoing a high-tech resurrection.

"This is still a baby valley," says Pasquale Pistorio [left], the affable Sicilian chairman of ST Microelectronics, who has transformed what was a loss-making Franco-Italian semiconductor group into the world's seventh-largest chip-maker. "But Catania has all the ingredients to become a significant high-tech phenomenon and is developing fast."

Across the Tyrrhenian Sea at Cagliari, you can find a similar, even more recent phenomenon taking place. Like the rest of the south, the Sardinian port once relied on state hand-outs and ill-conceived, state-inspired heavy industrial investments. Now it is making a serious bid to become Italy's internet capital.

"Already, 50 per cent of families here access the net compared with an internet penetration of barely 7 per cent for the country as a whole," says Mario Mariani, marketing director of Tiscali, the Sardinian free-internet pioneer that was started two years ago by Renato Soru [right], a local businessman.


When Mr Pistorio joined ST Microelectronics 20 years ago, the company's big plant in Sicily had losses reaching 120 per cent of sales. But the island also had a well educated population and, as Mr Pistorio says, "when you operate in high-value activities, hard or soft, old or new economy, the basic resource is brain".

Sicily has this abundant pool of intellectual labour thanks partly to unemployment of 26 per cent. In the absence of a thriving job market, young people are more motivated to study. ST has encouraged this, working with Catania University, hosting masters' courses inside the plants, and employing many of the graduates.


ST now employs nearly 4,000 people in Catania. Its operations have indirectly created a further 4,000 jobs. More than 200 small and medium-sized companies have established themselves in the area around ST. Large, high-tech Italian and foreign companies such as Nokia, Omnitel and Alcatel have set up operations in Catania. The numbers are likely to rise, with ST planning a further Dollars 1.5bn (Pounds 1.02bn) of investment in the area during the next three years.


Like Catania, Cagliari had a university, an advanced research centre, and abundant brains. It did not have an ST Microelectronics, but it did have the paradoxical advantage of isolation.

"The island's remote geographical position stimulated its search for new communications technologies to communicate cheaply and easily with the world (as well as) the Italian mainland," argues Mr Mariani of Tiscali. "Even if the new network economy was not born here and was already flourishing in the US, Sardinia became an internet pioneer in Europe...."


Asians Getting Surgery to Look Western

October 9, 2004

Changing Faces

...and thighs, calves, busts — you name it. From Seoul to Surabaya, Asians are turning to cosmetic surgery like never before. Lisa Takeuchi Cullen Investigates

Time Asia, 2004


Around Asia, women — and increasingly, men — are nipping and tucking, sucking and suturing, injecting and implanting, all in the quest for better looks. In the past, Asia had lagged behind the West in catching the plastic surgery wave, held back by cultural hang-ups, arrested medical skills and a poorer consumer base. But cosmetic surgery is now booming throughout Asia like never before. In Taiwan, a million procedures were performed last year, double the number from five years ago. In Korea, surgeons estimate that at least one in 10 adults have received some form of surgical upgrade and even tots have their eyelids done. The government of Thailand has taken to hawking plastic surgery tours. In Japan, noninvasive procedures dubbed "petite surgery" have set off such a rage that top clinics are raking in $100 million a year.


The culturally loaded issue today is the number of Asians looking to remake themselves to look more Caucasian. It's a charge many deny, although few would argue that under the relentless bombardment of Hollywood, satellite TV, and Madison Avenue, Asia's aesthetic ideal has changed drastically. "Beauty, after all, is evolutionary," says Harvard psychology professor Nancy Etcoff, who is the author of Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty — not coincidentally a best seller in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and China. Asians are increasingly asking their surgeons for wider eyes, longer noses and fuller breasts — features not typical of the race. To accommodate such demands, surgeons in the region have had to invent unique techniques. The No. 1 procedure by far in Asia is a form of blepharoplasty, in which a crease is created above the eye by scalpel or by needle and thread; in the U.S., blepharoplasty also ranks near the top, but involves removing bags and fat around the eyes. Likewise, Westerners use botox, or botulinum toxin, to diminish wrinkles — while in Korea, Japan and Taiwan, botox is injected into wide cheeks so the muscle will atrophy and the cheeks will shrink.

Just as Asian faces require unique procedures, their bodies demand innovative operations to achieve the leggy, skinny, busty Western ideal that has become increasingly universal. Dr. Suh In Seock, a surgeon in Seoul, has struggled to find the best way to fix an affliction the Koreans call muu-dari and the Japanese call daikon-ashi: radish-shaped calves. Liposuction, so effective on the legs of plump Westerners, doesn't work on Asians since muscle, not fat, accounts for the bulk. Suh says earlier attempts to carve the muscle were painful and made walking difficult. "Finally, I discovered that by severing a nerve behind the knee, the muscle would atrophy," says Suh, "thereby reducing its size up to 40%." Suh has performed over 600 of the operations since 1996. He disappears for a minute and returns with a bottle of fluid containing what looks like chopped up bits of ramen noodles. He has preserved his patients' excised nerves in alcohol. "And that's just since November," he says proudly.


Non-Whites in the U.K.

October 6, 2004

Geographic Distribution

45% of non-White people live in London

Regional distribution of the non-White population, April 2001

Non-White ethnic groups are considerably more likely to live in England than in the other countries of the UK. In 2001 they made up 9 per cent of the total population in England compared with only 2 per cent in both Scotland and Wales, and less than 1 per cent in Northern Ireland.

The non-White population of the UK is concentrated in the large urban centres. Nearly half (45 per cent) lived in the London region in 2001, where they comprised 29 per cent of all residents.

After London, the second largest proportion was in the West Midlands (with 13 per cent of the non-White population), followed by the South East (8 per cent), the North West (8 per cent), and Yorkshire and the Humber (7 per cent).

In contrast less than 4 per cent of those from non-White groups lived in the North East and the South West. Minority ethnic groups made up only 2 per cent of each of these regions' populations.

Seventy eight per cent of Black Africans and 61 per cent of Black Caribbeans lived in London. More than half of the Bangladeshi group (54 per cent) also lived in London. Other ethnic minority groups were more dispersed. Only 19 per cent of Pakistanis resided in London, while 21 per cent lived in the West Midlands, 20 per cent in Yorkshire and the Humber, and 16 per cent in the North West.

In Great Britain the highest concentration of White Irish people was in London. Almost a third (32 per cent) of the 691,000 White Irish people lived in London where they made up 3 per cent of the population. The English region with the lowest proportion of White Irish people was the North East, where they made up less than half a per cent of the population.

Non-White population by area, April 2001

Link (with more stats)