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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Latvians Design Web Hub

VALMIERA, Latvia — Latvian educators said this month they plan to transform the small town of Valmiera into a model Internet society where all municipal business will be conducted online and high-technology companies will be encouraged to invest.

"It could take a long time to set up, but we think the project is very necessary for development. … The Internet is the future," said Gunars Bajars, rector of the local Vidzeme University and one of the project organizers.

The aim would be for this town of 29,000 people, located some 100 kilometers northeast of Riga — the nation's capital and main business center — to eventually become Latvia's information technology capital, Bajars said. Currently, just 1 percent of the households in and around Valmiera are online. Nationwide, around 6 percent of the Baltic state's 2.4 million inhabitants are hooked up to the Internet, according to the central statistics office.

Bajars said the plan, which envisions connecting nearly all offices and homes to the Internet, would cost "several million dollars." He said he hoped funding would come from national and local governments, and corporate sponsors.