New Horizons in Regional Science series
Edited by Charlie Karlsson, Börje Johansson and Roger R. Stough
Chapter 4: Telecommunications and Regional Disparities in an Era of Globalization: From Conceptual Issues to Measurable Policy Impacts
Roberta Capello INTRODUCTION1 4.1 At the beginning of the 1980s economic research had placed much emphasis on the role of advanced technologies, and in particular of the information and communications technologies, in processes of economic growth and restructuring. Many regional economic studies have focused the analysis on the effects of advanced telecommunications technologies on regional disparities. In particular, in the 1980s the concept of the ‘Information Economy’ had come to the fore, a notion underlining the strategic role played in economic development by information as a strategic resource and, consequently, by telecommunications technologies as vehicles for transmitting information.2 In the same period, the European Commission was launching a series of extensive programmes in Research and Technology Development (R&D) with the aim of decreasing regional disparities within the Community.3 The driving force of these policies was the idea that telecommunications technologies were the ‘competitive weapons’ upon which the competitive advantage of firms and regions would critically depend; industrial, regional and national economic systems which lack such technologies would risk losing their position in the international market. At the beginning of the third millennium, we are witnessing a renewal of interest in telecommunications networks, built around the Internet phenomenon and the consequent emergence of the ‘New Economy’, which once again raises the question of the adoption and use of these technologies for economic development and regional convergence. The present debate on the ‘New Economy’ shows a striking resemblance to the ‘Information Economy’ paradigm of the 1980s; in this case, too, the...
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