The Smart City index is a national statistic that looks at the ways in which provincial 'capitals' deliver and promote services using electronic means (i.e. internet, social media etc) and their digital infrastructure. Rovigo came last in the Veneto region, and a depressing 86th nationally. La Voce di Rovigo's headline just about sums up the feeling of disillusion with the city and its services: Rovigo, città “tonta” del Veneto (Rovigo, "idiot" city of Veneto).
One of the areas which the index marks the cities against is 'Smart culture and tourism'; and in this regard Rovigo achieved a dismal national position of 104th (there are 110 Italian provinces in total). This part of the index looks at the way in which the city uses the web to promote and sell, uses social networks to segment customers and to tie its services to communities of tourists, as well as delivering services through digital applications and enhancing the city's culture through technologies such as virtual museums and e-commerce.
This will come as no surprise to anyone who has looked at the meagre digital offerings that Rovigo has delivered. Not only are websites often poorly translated but they are awkward to navigate and far from inspiring. They are numerous, but often out-of-date and not necessarily informative in the right way
Last year (2013), when I first arrived in Italy I visited the mayor of nearby Lendinara, a town which sits within the Rovigo province and the larger area of Polesine. We talked about the lack of promotion for a town that, like Rovigo, has a good deal of history and is missing out on activities that could boost the economy of the town. His reply was that sufficient funds were not forthcoming from the province to invest in the necessary time and infrastructure. I imagine that the same could be said for many more towns within the province.
I am sceptical as to how much Rovigo is likely to improve considering its current financial status. A couple of days ago, I shame-facedly entered L’Accademia dei Concordi where the library is housed to return a somewhat overdue (1 year) book. We were greeted by the President of the library and were informed that it was shut. Upon enquiring as to when it would be open again we were told it is closed indefinitely. The reason for the closure - lack of funds.
The Academy charges around 300,000 Euros a year for the running and maintenance of the building, which it appears comes from the library fund pot rather than a general expenditure fund for buildings. The library will remain closed until, indeed if, this funding problem can be addressed. "For now - said the head of the Academy - we are not in a position to resume the book-lending services, employees are redirected to carrying out internal planned projects". (La Voce di Rovigo, 20-7-2014).
This is just the tip of the iceberg and if the financial problems (whether it is lack of funds, poor management of funds or a combination of both) within Rovigo's local government continue it will only worsen. Rovigo will find itself sliding even further down the Smart City ratings and a few others too. Meanwhile, the citizens are devoid of a library and the province is undoubtedly missing out on much needed income from tourism.
As my partner said to the library's President, "You can't put a price on knowledge", but Rovigo is doing just that.