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The South surprises, beating out Center and tying North in broadband service

by Nicoletta Picchio

Italy’s underdeveloped South is in line with the average of the rest of Italy, in fact better in some cases, in terms information and communications technology, according to a new study called “S.u.d. 4.0: From the third industrial revolution towards Industry 4.0,” organized by UniCredit bank.

Some 11.8% of companies in the South sell their products online versus an average of 11% (beating out the North-West at 10.7%, as well as the center part of the country at 9.5%).

In the South, 26.2% of companies say they use specialized software for customer relationship management, just under the national average of 30%. Four regions in the South in fact lead the national ranking for percentage of population reached with broadband of up to 30 megabytes per second: Calabria (75%), Campania (65.2%), Puglia (53.8%) and Basilicata (42%) are above the national average of 35.4%.

But the scenario changes of you consider the latest generation of ultra-broadband (100 megabytes per second): only Campania hangs in there in third place, reaching 14% of its population. The other southern regions are lower, some well under the 11% national average.

While these figures are encouraging, given Italy’s relatively low digital penetration when companies to other European countries, its overall slow economic growth is still holding companies back, said the head of Italy’s business lobby.

“We are still in an emergency phase. We must recover the points of GDP we lost in the past, which are not insignificant,” said Confindustria chairman Vincenzo Boccia.

Some 20% of companies are doing well, 20% are doing badly, and the remaining 60% are somewhere in between.

“The nation’s challenge is to bring the first group up to 60%. We don’t want help but Italian industry can't take on any additional concerns,” Boccia said.

To achieve a digitalized manufacturing base, or Industry 4.0, he added, requires an organic economic policy effort and decisions on which areas to develop.

The industrial question as a national questions, to revisit with greater emphasis in the South. To make Italian industry competitive, production, according to Boccia, is an “essential” factor.

“But productivity is not just determined by one thing. The fight is between an old corporatist culture and an open society, and all that includes,” he said.

The future of young people, above all: the chairman of Confindustria reiterated his support of eliminating the fiscal wedge for young people for the first two years as part of a “major project of inclusion. The point is not to focus on the amount of the budget revisions, the question is if we are able to create a climate of growth for Italy and Europe.”

Banks, which are increasingly called upon to evaluate qualitative aspects of businesses, are also main players in Industry 4.0.