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Cibercentro for Employment in Metropolitan Bilbao: A Successful Initiative to Broaden the Social Use of the Internet

Alfonso MARTÍNEZ CEARRA <director@bm30.es>
Inigo ATXUTEGI <atxutegi@bm30.es>
Bilbao Metropoli-30


The paper shows the low penetration of the Internet in South European countries and how cost-efficient initiatives can broaden its use while addressing basic social needs of the community. The Cibercentro project is a partnership with the local community, IBM, Telefonica (Spanish telecom), and the local media to produce and maintain a multilingual Web-based employment and training service.

The Cibercentro is an initiative of Bilbao Metropoli-30, a public-private partnership set up in metropolitan Bilbao to revitalize the city with the support of the European Union. This US$1 million project is 50 percent cofinanced by the European Union, and its mission is to bring the younger citizens of Bilbao closer to the huge potential that the new information technologies have in the field of employment. The Cibercentro aims to improve the capabilities of and access to employment and self-employment opportunities of the younger generations by means of the new information and communication technologies, especially the Internet.

This free service tries to decrease the high unemployment rate among the young people in the metropolitan area by tapping their ability to assimilate the potential of the new technologies and creating an active environment for job-seekers. With a strong emphasis on the international scope, the Cibercentro provides each of its thousands of users with an individually guided training stage followed by an intensive-use period of Web service in which the users acquire the necessary expertise in these capabilities for their job environment.

This project opens other sources of funding to initiatives trying to solve problems of urban areas, since it brings new perspectives to the European Union cohesion policies. It makes clear that urban telematics has a very important role to play in closing the gaps between different areas of the Union and that telematics should be considered as a key factor in social and urban development. The project also addresses the opportunities the Internet offers for a bilingual society. Thanks to this initiative, over a two-year period the penetration of intense Internet users in the community in metropolitan Bilbao will increase.


The Information Society in perspective

The Information Society has been a hot issue recently as a new paradigm for the development of the society in Europe. So much has been written and spoken on it that one might tend to take it for granted. But, what is the present state of such a concept as the "Information Society" if we consider actual data in our environment? The art of estimating how many people are online throughout the world is an inexact one at best. Surveys abound, using all sorts of measurement parameters. However, from observing many of the published surveys over the past two years, according to Ireland-based company NUA [1], we can make an educated guess as to how many are online worldwide as of January 1999: 153.25 million with the following split:

World Total

153.25 million


1.14 million


26.55 million


33.39 million

Middle East

0.78 million

Canada & USA

87 million

South America

4.5 million

We could consider not only the data themselves, but also the position of Europe in comparison with other regions such as the United States. Issues such as cultural diversity, critical mass, or technology literacy might limit at the present time the use of Internet in this region, but our growth rate is among the highest in the world.

In order to consider the role and scope of local organizations in promoting the Information Society, we have to consider the actual situation not only in Europe but at a more detailed level, in which we focus our activities. The ISPO (Information Society Project Office) [2] was created in December 1994 as part of the action plan of the European Commission. It was established to support, foster, and orient the participation of the public and private sectors in the Information Society. Its aim is to assist the industry and users to better use the existing resources, support projects and actions, and work as a catalyst.

According to the European Survey of Information Society led by the ISPO office, there is a big gap in computer use and online services penetration between different countries in the European Union. In the case of Spain, not only the rate of computers per capita is clearly lower than the Union's average, but the percentage of the computer with an online connection is very low as well, decreasing therefore the total percentage of online citizens in our local area.

These disparities within Europe occur not only in receiving online services but also providing them. As producers of online information and services, southern European areas are well behind.

Considering, therefore, that in the Information Society structural diversities among European areas exist, a number of local organizations have undertaken various initiatives to tackle these disparities and foster the Information Society in our own local communities. Bilbao Metropoli-30, as the public-private partnership responsible for the revitalization of metropolitan Bilbao, has launched the Cibercentro project.

The Cibercentro initiative

The Cibercentro is a 1-million-Euro initiative of Bilbao Metropoli-30, cofinanced at 50 percent by the European Social Fund. It aims to engage the younger population to use and profit from the huge potential of information technologies, especially the Internet, to identify new job opportunities. In order to engage all layers of the target population, the service is free for users.

Bilbao Metropoli-30 partnership

Bilbao Metropoli-30 is a public-private partnership [3] with over 140 members from the local community set up to revitalize Metropolitan Bilbao. Its mission is to lead the future vision of Metropolitan Bilbao and launch revitalization strategies. The initiatives undertaken seek to set the grounds for the city of tomorrow in eight key areas:

The Cibercentro initiative launches a concerted action in the framework of the areas of investment in human resources and development of a service-oriented metropolis. The aim of the project is, by means of engaging the younger layers of the population in an attractive online services training course, to foster their capacity of individually exploring the possibilities offered by the new technologies for their working environment.

The Cibercentro initiative wants to move a couple thousand young people along this line of technological literacy, starting with a training period at the center itself followed by a period of assisted browsing until they are able to exploit all the capabilities offered by the services in the Information Society.

Reason for the Cibercentro

Focus of the service

The user learns and develops his/her capacity to use the Internet. As a result the user is able to undertake an active and personalized job-seeking strategy. The emphasis is on the learning process more than on the results themselves.

The Cibercentro is based on a series of tools that facilitate easy access to job-market information on a user-friendly Web environment and with a strong emphasis on the international scope of the Internet, fostering intercommunication with information users and producers all over the world. The Cibercentro provides each of its users with an individually guided training stage followed by an intensive use period. The users acquire the necessary expertise in these capabilities for their job environments.

Itinerary of services

The process begins with generic training actions about the Internet. Every single user takes part in a training stage in which he/she gets used to the common Internet tools such as the Web, e-mail, conferencing, news, and forums. Then the users are taught the specific functions offered by the Cibercentro (online presentations, curricula, e-mail capabilities, forums, employment sources, entrepreneurship). After the training period, the users use the service either locally or remotely. The systems allow the users to connect to the service anywhere in the world via the Internet; in fact, this is one of the main objectives: increase the computer and Internet literacy of the local population, promoting its use in daily life.

The process is therefore divided into four consecutive stages.

During the first six-month period, 650 users were trained and are making intensive use of the services provided.


The Cibercentro architecture is developed around an IBM Netfinity 3500 Pentium II server with Lotus Domino for Web publishing the databases that are accessible for registered users either directly at the training center (where 10 IBM PC Pentium IIs are available connected at the local network) or remotely from their home, workplace, or other sites with Internet access (though a 64 Kbps frame-relay).

Main services and utilities

The services available at the Cibercentro at accessible at http://cibercentro.bm30.es [4]. Only registered users that have gone though a dedicated training period can access certain areas of the services.

Introduction to the Cibercentro

Main objective: Train the users on the basics of Internet and its application to the Cibercentro.


Your own online presentation

Main objective: Guide the users on the key aspects of an efficient online presentation.


Employment sources

Main Objective: Train to access primary information sources on employment according to specific search criteria.


Employment forum

Main objective: Create a virtual meeting space for debate on information and knowledge.


Information sources

Main objective: Learn to perform search for complementary information that can improve their professional perspectives.



Main objective: Increase the awareness of the possibilities that the network offers to create your own initiative and offer online services.




  1. NUA Internet Surveys, http://www.nua.ie/surveys/how_many_online/index.html
  2. Information Society Project Office, http://www.ispo.cec.be
  3. Bilbao Metropoli-30, http://www.bm30.es
  4. Cibercentro from Bilbao Metropoli-30, http://cibercentro.bm30.es

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