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Linked In, online and in the loop

Very exciting to read last week that high-speed internet access will soon be extended to every village in Andalucia. Apparently, the 600 villages that aren't currently connected to the net will be able to do so using mobile phones. This is a terrific idea, when you think how the internet has completely revolutionised our lives. Not to mention amazing considering that this is southern Spain, where (in some areas at least) not so long ago the ideas of email, websites and the internet were considered frighteningly modern. Friends tell me of Spanish people who still today tell them proudly, 'I´ve got email now.' I've seen plenty of websites of local companies with a homepage and nothing else - no contacts details, no information, nothing. At the other end of the scale, I was in a restaurant last night where several of a large group of 15 or 16-year-olds were using iphones. I have also heard of a plan to provide schoolchildren with notebook computers. And, of course, many Spanish companies are now at the cutting edge of technology when it comes to user-friendly, easily-navigable websites with all the latest gizmos for keeping you up-to-date with their latest activities. As I learned at a work thinktank last week, all our communications - work, personal, social - will soon be done on mobile devices, probably a cross between a notebook computer and a phone, possibly like Apple's new 11-inch-screen Tablet, which is launched in the US this week. Tomorrow´s gizmo will be able to make calls; send email; surf the internet; post tweets and blogs; take, upload and watch photos and videos; play music (and probably make it too); read ebooks; tell you where you are, where you need to go, who else you know has been there, what they thought of it, and what they ate. We are more instantly and constantly informed, connected and updated than ever before. But from my position living near a small, quiet country village (albeit very near a city), I can see both sides of this. Most of the people where I live aren't aware of Twitter, Vimeo or blogspace. It's just not relevant to their lives - and if you don´t know what these are either, it's couldn't be easier to find out - check out Twitter on andalucia.com. Then there´s the other side - my own life, stuck to the computer for more hours a day than I care to admit, chatting to friends, looking at their photos, seeing what they're up to, personally and professionally, laughing at their comments and comparing their lives to mine - oh, and working, of course. My excuse is that I live a somewhat isolated life as an expat with a husband who works very long hours, two small children and not much local social activity, so this virtual social life keeps me in touch - and sane. And it can benefit my (and your) professional life too, as the social-media-techno-whizzkids at the thinktank last week explained to me. It was a curious experience, feeling at the same time incredibly out of the loop (freelance for years, small children, live in a field in the middle of nowhere), but also very grateful at being brought back into it. Using one recommended professional networking site, I have made contact with people I used to work with 15 years ago, people I haven't seen for 20 years. And it´s fascinating to see what they´ve been doing, how they've progressed in their careers, and where they are now. At least that´s what I tell myself as I put the Bob the Builder DVD on again for the kids. Our children will live in a different world to the one where we are, of that I am sure, but I hope they will find time to talk to each other in person too, and to write more than 140 characters at a time. Please don't get me wrong, I am not in any way against all these advances - I love them, they´re useful and fun - but I have one foot in the world where we used to write letters and postcards, too (I still do put pen to paper, in fact). I believe it´s about striking the right balance - I don´t think the inhabitants of those 600 villages in Andalucia need worry about getting addicted to Farmville or Four Square just yet, but there´s nothing like mulling over life with a friend over a cup of coffee and a tostada. Their lives will be enhanced by this new technological arrival, not overtaken by it - which is just the way it should be. And talking of technological advances, we're working on some very exciting ones here at andalucia.com, which will offer a host of new information (in addition to our unparalleled exisiting 5,000 pages), different media and, above all, involvement by you, our readers. That is where all this comes into play in an entirely positive way - making it easier, and more fun, for you to find out what you need to know - and sharing your knowledge, as you already are on myandalucia.com. Exciting times ahead - as they say, watch this space.
Blog published on 25 January 2010