and private must come together to enable businesses, large and small, community groups ..... Sunderland an outlet, for example through call centre training and overall, ... the region a communications hub as opposed to the focus on software.
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How, where, why and when information technologies are seen as a regeneration policy Alan Southern
A regeneration policy
University of Durham Business School, Durham, UK Keywords Information technology, Industry, Strategic planning, Globalization, United Kingdom Abstract Much has been written about the role of information and communications technology (ICTs) as a principled input of the ``new economy''. Much has also been written about the demise of older industrial regions and local economies. In a populist narrative about contemporary society it seems that the world of the new entrepreneurial dot.com businesses is in the ascendancy, while the older industries of steel, shipbuilding and general manufacturing reflect some bygone time of mass employment and standardised production. But does the logic of the industrial age necessarily feed into the logic of the new economy? Perhaps, despite the rhetoric of the knowledge driven economy, the informational age and the network society, there is nothing inevitable in such development. However, there is evidence of a concerted effort by local and regional governance agencies to initiate planning and policy for ICTs as a regeneration tool. This is, in fact, an empirical study of how, why and when places pursue strategies for ICTs. The locus of study is the North East region of the UK. This is a region built on the heavy industries of deep coal-mining, shipbuilding, steel-making and engineering. In this region manufacturing still makes a greater contribution to regional GDP than the service sector. Yet, here, there are clear examples of attempts to stimulate new types of economic activity based on ICTs. The region, it is argued, must engage with the new knowledge economy if it is to survive the myriad social relations thrown up through the unrelenting processes of globalisation. To do this, so the discussion follows, public and private must come together to enable businesses, large and small, community groups and government to play a full role in the new economy; by becoming more knowledge driven and through raising information processing capabilities. Adopts a critical stance towards the idea of ICTs as a tool for regeneration but shows how efforts to establish the correct enabling mechanisms are in fact grounded in the promise of new technologies held by key local and regional players.
1. Introduction On 11 September 2000, immediately prior to the fuel blockade, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair displayed his usual assurance at the launch of the new information technology initiative, UK Online. Blair argued, in more than a rhetorical manner, . . . [t]here is one economy, all of it being transformed by information technology. What is happening is no dot.com fad that will come and go ± it is a profound economic revolution. It has two consequences. First, business and government must now be in a constant process of adapting to change. Second, the key to success is knowledge and hence the key to Government is investment ± in education and skills (Blair's speech, UK Online, 2000).
What Blair represented was a well-established discourse about technology and knowledge generation at the heart of economic development and prosperity. There is nothing new in attributing to technology an authority of impartial
The International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 14 No. 5, 2001, pp. 423-438. # MCB University Press, 0951-3558
progress. Yet Blair was referring to one particular technology at play here, the role of information and communication technologies. This technology has come be known as ICTs, informatics, telematics, the information superhighway, and more romantically, the dot.com phenomenon but for the more sophisticated, the new economy. The Prime Minister reiterated a narrative cited many times before; by his own political administration, by those that preceded him, by government officials from other countries and by a wide range of business representatives. This paper, which is based on current research and previous work dating back to 1993, explores the where and when ICTs are seen as a regeneration tool. This is a subject that has engaged many public sector officials and politicians involved in regeneration or economic development (Southern, 1997). It is also an issue of direct relevance for the private sector, particularly the application of the technology to support business competitiveness (Fuller and Southern, 1999; Southern and Tilley, 2000). At the very least, this technology appears to offer a neutral space in which the public and private sector can come together to formulate mutual policy that will offer, to both sides, benefits. The paper also considers why ICTs should be considered as a regeneration tool. Perhaps to capture the rationale behind this we need to revisit ideas about technology acting as an impetus to economic growth. However, how this can be achieved is rarely articulated in the policy statements and programmes about ICTs. This brings us on to a final consideration that of how ICTs are often pursued as a regeneration tool. We should expect to find political processes at play at this stage as in any other type of regeneration and the evidence presented in this paper bears this out. Technology in regeneration is socially shaped although the dynamics and processes involved are often negated or marginalised at the expense of the perception of accrued benefits from the adoption of ICTs. The paper attempts to address this imbalance. 2. Technology as a means of regeneration or development The rationale behind technology as a regeneration tool is inadequately, but often introduced by reference to economically or technologically deterministic views of development. This view might be seen as the application of a certain type of capital that increases production or productivity but overall supports some view of economic growth. It need not be capitalist activity. For instance, Childe (1954) placed some emphasis on technology in stimulating the urban revolution some 5,000 years ago. Similarly, the sociologist Gideon Sjoberg has argued: . . . as pre-industrial cities in numerous divergent cultural milieu display basic similarities in form, some variable other than cultural values, in the broad sense, must be operative; regularities of this sort are not the result of mere chance it seems clear that the transition from the preliterate to the feudal level, i.e. to the pre-industrial civilized order, or from the latter to the industrial-urban society is associated with certain crucial advances in the technological sphere (Sjoberg, 1960, quoted in Chant, 1999, p. 250).
Thus the relationship between economic growth and technology has a long preindustrial tradition. Likewise, Lenin spoke of communism as Soviet power plus electrification thereby relating not only technology with economic development but with an ideological order. Kuznets situates technology as one aspect central to economic growth by suggesting that the long run rise in capacity to supply and deliver economic goods to people is based on technological advance and the institutional and ideological changes this provokes (see for example in Todaro, 2000). And even Alfred Marshall (1899, p. 124) was moved to suggest that technological advance ``narrows the range of manual work in which command over hand and eye is at a premium'' reflecting the Taylorist and Fordist views which came to dominate production systems in the twentieth century. While some would argue that reference to technologically-led economic development today is likely to be capitalist in nature (Castells, 1996) the attention paid to both Kondratiev Long-Wave Theory and Schumpeterian interpretations of innovation over the last two decades also relate economic development with technological development. Explained in a very basic manner, it is suggested how long-waves of technological development are based on the renewal of capital goods (such as automated machinery) related to private investment. Kondratiev argued it was endogenous activity such as the replacement of machinery and other infrastructure investment that led to cycles of economic development (cf. Marshall, 1987; Mandel, 1995). In contrast, Schumpeter focused on the bunching or swarming of innovations in a process of ``creative destruction'' that resulted in fundamental change to the technological base of the economy (Elam, 1994). Roughly occurring every 50 years, the cycles of technologically led economic development have involved leading types of innovation and imitative behaviour. To an extent, this was an inversion of Kondratiev in that it suggested how, at certain periods during the economic cycle, innovation could be transformed into commercially marketable production which triggered off new cycles of investment. We can see the essence of these arguments being played out today in the practitioner world through a focus on ICTs, the knowledge economy and clusters in, for example, the Regional Economic Strategy (RES) of all the English Regional Development Agencies. There is also plenty of evidence of it being debated within academic communities (cf. Archibugi et al., 1999; Castells, 1996; Lovering, 1999). The focus on the new economy has placed greater emphasis on ICTs over any other type of technological development. If anything, the emphasis placed on this technology as a crucial element in the economic performance of the USA has endeared the deterministic view of progress through technology. From the Federal Reserve Board (in the USA) there has been, over the past few years, a continuous message about production, productivity and growth based on information technologies. There are those, such as Ferguson Jr, who acknowledge how the technologies have been around for some time but failed to have any significant affect on productivity in the 1970s and 1980s (Ferguson, 1999). What is different today, it is argued, is the way in which technology is
A regeneration policy
linked to corporate governance, labour flexibility, investment in human capital, and an enabling entrepreneurial environment ± at least in the US case (Ferguson, 1999). Greenspan argues how the: . . .veritable avalanche of real-time data has facilitated a marked reduction in the hours of work required per unit of output and a broad expansion of newer products whose output has absorbed the workforce no longer needed to sustain the previous level and composition of production. The result during the last five years has been a major acceleration in productivity and, as a consequence, a marked increase in standards of living for the average American household (Greenspan, 1999).
Furthermore, we are only into the first five years of this cycle of technological change meaning that we are likely to witness more ``creative destruction'' as capital investment shifts from failing technologies to ``those at the cutting edge'' (Greenspan, 1999). For regeneration managers the effect of attaching a causal link between ICTs and economic performance is quite marked. In appearance it offers an answer to many social and economic problems. Although it is often implicit it is this delivery of a panacea that has captured many UK policy makers concerned with both social and economic issues. For instance, the role of European and UK government has been highly influential in the application of ICTs in the UK. Apart from the landmark Bangemann Report in 1994 which sought to set out a blueprint for life in European Union member states in the ``informational age'' the range of policies administered by the Commission and through departments such as the Department of Trade and Industry has focused on ICTs for enhancing economic activity (Fuller and Southern, 1999). In addition, the European Services Forum, an advocate of electronic commerce on behalf of service industries across the European Community, are involved in discussion with their counterparts at a global level through the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Their argument is that there needs to be service provision across nation-states to enable more electronic trade and that the absence of adequate regulation in this domain set out by the World Trade Organisation could be an impediment to ecommerce. Added to this there is the view that deregulation of telecommunications markets must be coupled to the freedom of corporations to function as they see fit in responding to the demands of global markets. This is particularly poignant in the case of the North East where the social and economic difficulties and poor performance of the region are a reflection of market failure. The danger for older industrial locations is that the new economy will likely follow the route of the old economy led by powerful corporations. Against this background the notion of ICTs in regeneration is being articulated. While we have a focus on technology in economic development from various viewpoints the consistency rests in the way that the two are associated. It would therefore seem unreasonable to suggest that technology does not matter to economic development. Clearly it does and it is not necessarily technologically or economically deterministic to say so. Yet it is also feasible to ask whether technology automatically produces economic
growth and regeneration and when it does, are communities any better off than before when subject to the vagaries of global markets destroying employment. Or can ICTs make communities more resistant to powerful multinational companies who take flight from their original location in search of bigger and better markets or cheaper production costs? This is akin to asking who shapes the ``space of flows'' as Castells refers to them? My response is to suggest that the role of bureaucracy and political administration require attention as part of the ``symbiotic relationship between human evolution and scientific and technological progress'' (Robins and Webster, 1999, p. 89), as part of the contested space around shaping ``the space of flows'' (Castells, 1996). In the next section of this paper evidence from a case study of the North East of England is provided to consider these points in more depth. 4. Managing ICTs-led regeneration: the North East case The reason why Castells' ideas have been introduced at this point is because they are pertinent to the ``impact'' of ICTs at the local level. In Castells' (1996) view the space of flows is about the sequences and interactions between actors in organisations and institutions whose behaviour, strategy and policy shape spatial outcomes. So, for instance, in terms of regeneration local policy makers, planners and urban gatekeepers have an important role to play in ``shaping the space of flows''. This is very different from the role of actors who shape the global ICTs network and electronic architecture, as both Greenspan and Ferguson acknowledge with their own references to organisations such as IBM and Microsoft. What local political actors can do, according to Castells, is to try and influence how the importance of ICTs manifests in a locality. He argues further that this will become an increasingly important part of local decision making because the space of flows is getting stronger than the influence of place (Castells, 1996; Borja and Castells, 1997). If we accept Castells reasoning it provides one rationale to the current hierarchy of places in the new economy. In this respect, it could be argued that the South East will be better placed to shaping the space of flows than the North East. Since the early to mid-1990s there have been a number of attempts to raise the informatics capacity in the region through initiatives such as Northern informatics (2000), Sunderland Telematics and County Durham On-Line. Funding has been obtained through various mechanisms, such as the Single Regeneration Budget and particularly, European finance. It would seem that the range of funding programmes are partly responsible for the lack of coordination and disparate nature of ICTs in regional regeneration (see also Fuller and Southern, 1999). According to One NorthEast (ONE), the RDA, they argued in the Regional Economic Strategy that to build a ``regional electronic economy'' a framework for action would include six key elements. These are described in Table I. The aims one set out are certainly not specific to the North East, with similar references to ICTs being made explicitly by other RDAs in, for example, the East Midlands and the South East (Benneworth, 2000).
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Electronic trading by the Region's larger public and private sector organisations Electronic trading by the Region's small and medium size enterprises The provision of online public service information An integrated programme for core and advanced ICT skills
The North East as an innovative centre for e-commerce
Table I. A framework for ICTs-led regional regeneration in the North East
ICT in the urban and rural regeneration programmes of the Region
To be achieved by 2001 with One NorthEast to lead by example by conducting its procurement activity electronically By promoting targeted e-business support and featuring ICTs in cluster and supply-chain developments Including a branded Regional Internet site with signposted access to information services Involving higher and further education institutions, schools, (then) TECs and Business Links, Small Business Service to encourage collaboration in skills upgrading between public and private sector To maximise the potential of the existing telecommunications infrastructure, including establishing an e-business panel and ``Northern Telehouse'' Enabling ICT-based learning opportunities that will encourage better networking between communities and involve village halls, post offices, libraries and college outreach centres
Source: One NorthEast (1999, p. 43)
There is undoubtedly a rhetoric at play here. However, the goal of places being innovation and knowledge-driven is one that is being uncritically embraced in many, many older industrial regions. Yet in the North East there are two further factors which are acting as a ``push'' factor for including ICTs in regeneration. First, there is a heavy weight of statistical evidence that indicates the region lags behind in many indices of social and economic performance (see for instance Cockerill and Southern, 2000). Whether figures are provided on economic inactivity, gross domestic product per capita, educational attainment, indices of deprivation or small business start-ups the message is always the same: the North East performs less well than other English regions. Second, recent work has indicated that this region is apparently disadvantaged in terms of its capability to ``connect'' to the global network of electronic social and economic activities. A recent report from within the region made the following point. [A]ssuming that the adoption of technologies in the region increases at the roughly the same rate as it has grown in the country as a whole over the past two years, North East business remains around a year behind the national average (Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies, 2000, p. 36 emphasis in original).
Further evidence of the regional ``e-deficit'' has been provided in studies commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry. The most recent of these provide a ``connectivity indicator'' that is summarised in Table II but these are juxtaposed against other selected economic performance indicators.
UK North East North West Yorkshire and Humberside East Midlands West Midlands East London South East South West Wales Scotland Northern Ireland
89 96 93 102 125 118 98 82 94 80
77.3 80.0 78.3 81.4 76.9 82.6 80.9 74.7 77.1 N/A
= Regional Trends; c = DfEE;
100 82 91
39.7 43.4 42.2 48.5 44.0 51.1 50.1 43.7 54.8 53.5
46.2 38.1 43.7
= ONS; e = DTI
GDP per head (1997)b
Economic activity rate (1996)a
Pupils who achieve five or more GCSE grades A-C (1996/1997)c
0.4 1.3 1.0 3.1 0.5 1.8 1.2 0.3 0.5 0.4
1.2 0.8 1.4
0.1 0.1 0.3 0.3 0.2 0.5 0.4 0.1 0.2 0.1
0.2 0.1 0.1
0.4 0.3 0.2 0.3 0.6 0.3 0.2 0.3 0.5 0.3
0.4 0.4 0.3
R&D expenditure as a % of GDP (1997)d
95 95 104 98 110 105 93 86 95 94
100 93 95
Connectivity indicator (2000)e
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Table II. Indicators of ``connectivity'' compared to selected economic indicators
The connectivity indicator is based on variables such as the number of businesses with a Web site, who frequently use external e-mail or use Electronic Data Interchange (UK Online for Business, 2000). To summarise these the North East has the lowest economic activity rate, amongst the lowest GDP per capita, the lowest rate of pupils achieving five or more GCSE A-C grades, is in the middle band of business-based research and development expenditure (as a proportion of GDP) and is amongst the lowest in terms of the DTI connectivity indicator. It would be poor research indeed that would suggest a causal link between selected economic indicators and the connectivity indicator. However, this is precisely the logic that is used to underpin ICT based regeneration initiatives. There is a misconceived assumption that ICTs will automatically translate a locality or a business into something more competitive. For a region like the North East, an older industrial region having to come to terms with the new economy this is precisely what is needed, or so the logic goes. For this reason these two areas of under-performance are brought together. Nevertheless, these issues can indicate a way in which to associate ICTs with other aspects of social and economic progress and in so doing make some concerted effort to debate in what way ICTs should be socially shaped in the name of regeneration. This would at least validate the role of the public sector in supporting greater take-up and efficient use of ICTs by firms, institutions and households across the region. This is part of the so-called institutional thickness so often articulated with respect to innovation and local economic agglomeration. In fact, the North East has already experienced development in this field as a number of partnerships have been formed as part of the ICTs institutional capacity building and aimed specifically at social and economic regeneration. 5. ICTs partnerships in the name of North East regeneration Research to date suggests informatics partnerships and coalitions in the region are characterised by the energy and commitment of key individuals. These are people who exhibit a technological or political level of expertise and enterprise that bring together funding mechanisms with an opportunity to apply the technology in some way. Overall, they (the ICTs partnerships) try to coordinate and balance development. The main areas for attention include supporting the local small firm base through ICTs, securing some type of community-based ICTs activity such as raising levels of education and training, marketing their own locale by emphasising the technological infrastructure to potential inward investors, and improving citizenship and the dissemination of public information. The partnerships in the region have proceeded with varying degrees of success and there is at best, an uneasy working relationship existing between them. They have also experienced some difficulty in terms of measuring the ``success'' of what they have been involved with. For example, what might appear as a struggle to raise the ICTs capability of firms, institutions and
communities may be exactly the sort of effort needed at this time to develop a rigorous enabling technological infrastructure. However, funding regimes can overlook this effort in the search for quantifiable outcomes, such as number of people trained or jobs saved. On the other hand there has been a lack of inclusiveness in setting out a regional ICTs agenda and this has been to the detriment of a number of local partnerships and coalitions. Too few ICTs-based partnerships have fully exploited the long-standing commitment to coalition building that exists in this region (see Shaw, 1993). Perhaps a further indicator of the influence of the funding mechanism is the way evaluation and monitoring are not necessarily coupled with strategic decision-making in this field. The brief overview of a number of ICTs partnerships that follows summarises the rationale behind their inception and operation. Northern informatics There is not a hierarchy of ICTs partnerships in the region but neither is there a network able to link together the different groups involved in this domain. The closest to a regional wide initiative is provided through the work of Northern informatics (Ni). Ni is an organisation that began life at the end of 1994 as a company limited by guarantee located on the Enterprise Zone, Doxford International Business Park, in Sunderland. With only a small number of staff Ni have sought to develop working relations with many other agencies in the region and incorporated the views of regional politicians and officials through involvement in their executive board. Ni are known within the region to actors from local authorities, higher and further education institutions, schools, the private sector (such as from the Chambers of Commerce), the GO-NE and from the regions' (to be disbanded) Training and Enterprise Councils and Business Links. They have sought, in their own words, to provide the region with a competitive advantage based on the application of ICTs across institutions and businesses albeit supported by public sector funding and where possible, leveraged in private sector finance. For a number of years now Ni have sought to raise ICTs awareness in the region and to establish a common purpose around this issue. The recent development for a Regional Electronic Economy Programme (see above known as REEPTM) is the latest step in this process. The language contained in the REEPTM is consistent with that contained in the Regional Economic Strategy issued by ONE (Northern informatics, 2000). REEPTM identifies how informatics can be used to improve the competitiveness of the region by focusing on electronic supply chains, strengthening the available technical support, liaison with cluster development teams and links with business support organisations in the region. Efforts to support the ``supply-side'' of ICTs involves education, training and development and Ni claim to have an important role in enabling institutions to coordinate activity in this domain. It is suggested area-based initiatives such as Electronic Village Halls (EVHs)
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can support efforts aimed against social exclusion. EVHs have been supported in various sites, such as in Manchester, for over a decade. Yet the bringing together of ICTs and social exclusion in this way demonstrates not only the wide ranging potential perceived in the technology but also the shift in political attitude towards poverty and how this can be associated to the notion of information ``have-nots''. Ni suggest they are in a favourable position to act as guardians of good practice and to disseminate knowledge about ICTs across the region and it should be noted that at a time of increased attention concerning regional accountability the work of Ni has now become part of this much broader debate. One of the main difficulties that Ni has faced has been the lack of constitutional remit for their work. In a formal sense Ni do not fit into the governance framework for the region. This is not a problem if Ni is a consultancy body operating as an organisation that sells their service to institutions and firms in the region but it is a contentious issue if they claim to act on behalf of the region as they often say they do. Undoubtedly, Ni would like to act on behalf of everyone in the region but they clearly cannot speak for all. In a recent document issued by Ni they have called for clarity of their role in supporting the North East Regional Information Society Unit (RISU) and have begun negotiations with the RDA about how their work can sit alongside the work of ONE. The complexity of this is demonstrated when we consider that the North East RISU will cover areas where Ni can already demonstrate a degree of expertise. Ni can, at this stage, provide a strategic overview and global intelligence of the region. They have almost seven years' experience of this domain. They are capable of providing a limited appraisal of ICTs projects, supporting policy coordination with the EC, can help market the ICTs capability of the region and have been involved in commissioning an ecommerce strategy for the region. The emergence of the RDAs offered Ni an opportunity to embed their work in a legitimate regional framework but this has not yet been possible and while the debate about regional accountability develops Ni will find it increasingly difficult to retain their current unconstitutional position. Sunderland Telematics Work on Wearside has developed since 1996 and is currently being coordinated by the City of Sunderland ``e-government'' unit. This unit has evolved from previous innovative work that established a Sunderland Telematics Strategy which itself was based on the efforts of the Sunderland Telematics Working Group (STWG) formed under the auspices of the SRB financed City of Sunderland Partnership. The early work in Sunderland had two striking features. First, it had clarity in its purpose and legitimacy by being supported through the Partnership. From the inception of the STWG leaders of the Partnership provided executive support for ICTs development. Efforts were made to capture the views of the different sectors represented at the City of Sunderland Partnership level. Second, there has been a successful attempt to
establish a physical ICTs presence in the Sunderland economy by setting up an information processing capacity situated on the Doxford International Business Park. Major companies, such as London Electric, Barclaycall and One-to-One have located their call centre and information processing activities on Doxford. The Doxford site provides some of those involved in regeneration in Sunderland an outlet, for example through call centre training and overall, officials in the City can make claims about pursuing technologically-led economic development policies. However, concern about the operating environment of call centres (such as the role of trade unions and rates of pay) are often underplayed at the expense of boosterist notions of informationprocessing led economic development (see Richardson et al., 1998/1999, but also Southern, 2000). This is an international phenomenon. Advertising New Brunswick as the ``Call Centre Capital of North America'' the State government boast that ``New Brunswick has the lowest rate of unionization in Canada . . .''. According to those involved in Sunderland their informatics work has the capability to be developed in a particular and specialised manner. They see themselves as being able to distinguish Sunderland from Newcastle by offering the region a communications hub as opposed to the focus on software development being pursued by their Tyneside counterparts. Collaboration between the Sunderland and Newcastle local authorities can also help with the work of the e-government unit which is aimed at providing better public services and supporting the local businesses in the area. The Doxford Teleport is an important symbol in the regeneration initiatives in Sunderland and City officials have argued that Doxford can be utilised to support further telecommunications initiatives complemented by specific e-business sites within vacant office site in the city centre. The detail of achievements in Sunderland can be found in various strategic documents but it is worth recognising the pace at which Sunderland developed its own agenda. In the space of some 18 months or so their ICTs work was built up from almost nothing to being awarded the title of ``most improved teleport'' (at Doxford) by the World Teleport Association. County Durham On-Line The County Durham Informatics Partnership (CDIP) began in 1995 operating at a countywide level. CDIP were led by County Durham TEC but closely involved a number of local authorities, particularly Durham County Council in their work. They aimed explicitly to support one of the key objectives outlined by the larger County Durham Economic Development Partnership that was focused on developing and exploiting a modern telecommunications system in the interests of the local economy. CDIP built up a wide ranging partnership that involved public sector representatives from the local district councils, from the three levels of education, from the voluntary sector and from small business pressure groups.
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There are two particular characteristics about the Durham ICTs work worth mentioning. The first is that because the local TEC have been heavily involved much of their work has had a small firm emphasis. The second is that CDIP established a small executive group who made decisions about how to operationalise efforts to support ICTs in the County. County Durham On-Line became a resourced unit with the responsibility to deliver the CDIP strategy. They developed a rolling programme of ICTs provision, mainly aimed at small firms and in terms of size CDOL employed more people than Ni and it was argued, involved more representative organisations in setting out their strategy. Because of the involvement and lead from the TEC and to a lesser extent the local Business Link, CDOL now have an uncertain future. If the County Durham TEC and Business Link County Durham had remained in position funding would have been assured for CDOL. However, this is not the case and from March 2001 CDOL will no longer exist. What this shows is how the work of an organisation such as CDOL is integrated into the broader economic development and regeneration agenda. The current position is that as part of the County response to the Regional Economic Strategy there is a focus on ICTs. Ironically, those originally involved in CDIP and CDOL are now arguing for support from the new County Durham sub-regional partnership (see Cockerill et al., 2000) to provide a longevity to the ICTs work in the County. Perhaps there is a lesson here for ICTs-based partnerships in that the Durham experience did lack some form of government accountability. It was not local authority led. In contrast, other locally based ICTs initiatives in the County that have been district council led and supported via SRB finance, have been sustainable. Teesside Informatics Partnerships The fourth example draws from Teesside where it would appear that the fallout from the Local Government Review in the mid-1990s has become entangled in attempts to initiate local ICTs partnerships. Simultaneously, groups led by the local Teesside TEC and a group from within the local University appeared. In the past couple of years these efforts have been superseded by the Tees Valley Informatics Partnership. Teesside Informatics was a loose coalition that came together at the end of 1995, while the Community Informatics Research and Applications unit (CIRA) had, almost at the same time, initiated a number of local community based projects. The latter still exists and is actively involved in promoting community access to ICTs. From July 1998 the Tees Valley Informatics Strategy has been developed under the auspices of the Tees Valley Joint Strategy Unit (TVJSU). The aim has been to help overcome the weak strategic approach to ICTs led development that is felt to be evident in the sub-region. Three key areas have been highlighted for improvement and they sit comfortably with work from other groups such as Ni. These are focused on ICTs for local business, for education and training, and for people and local communities. Yet while there
is a dedicated resource for ICTs development in the Tees Valley (and this, a laudable approach) it would appear that there is still much to do to harmonise development. Other projects initiated by groups who fall outside of the TVIP sphere of influence have weakened the attempt to develop a coordinated strategic approach on informatics. Overall, the political processes in Tees Valley stunted for a time the emergence of a local informatics partnership, and continue to cloud the duplication of effort by local groups interested in ICTs. Despite these efforts within Teesside it is felt that the levels of understanding how opportunities can emerge from ICTs is low. This is not simply a business issue, it is argued, but there is an issue about raising ``awareness of the applications and benefits of ICT in teaching, learning and in society generally'' (Tees Valley Joint Strategy Unit, 2000, p. 37). The rhetorical discourse about the possibilities and opportunities from technology that is now emanating from Tees Valley is symptomatic of a sub-region that has struggled socially and economically in recent years, and now sees ICTs as an opportunity to link with the new economy and derive the benefits from this new world. 6. Conclusion: some general points concerning ICTs and regeneration One of the main points to make concerning the evidence from the North East is that the emergence of local ICTs-based partnerships has very little to do with technology. Building up the collaborative working needed in this field is similar in nature to other regeneration initiatives involving local political processes. ICTs cannot be developed as a regeneration tool outside the debates (academic and practitioner led) concerning regional development, the city-region axis and regional devolution. In the North East work is already underway to integrate ICTs with economic development plans at a regional and sub-regional level. This does raise the issue of funding for the type of activities ICTs partnerships become involved with, an issue not covered to any great extent in this paper (but see Southern, 1997; Fuller and Southern, 1999). Scope of regeneration activity and the application of ICTs have to be determined by the strength of the local partnership which, in turn, will be resolved by the confidence all groups have in participating. Participation by groups and agencies should address those aspects which arise as older traditional local economies are faced with the intricacies of the new economy and not spend their time chasing funding for ICTs type activity that may not have proven returns for local economies. The question arises about whether a particular kind of expertise is required to deal with this or if this sort of debate can be opened out to involve those very communities who faced and felt the vagaries of economic restructuring. Local ICTs partnerships have a broad operational scope and this may well become problematic to govern as a holistic approach. The North East case shows some clear signs that democratic accountability has not been the
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over-riding issue concerning the pursuit of a technologically-led regeneration process. More thought is required as to why this should be the case. It could be that the professional class who are responsible for this field either lack the confidence in their own constituents and communities or perhaps lack the competency to overcome the quantitative and rhetorical emphasis placed on regeneration outputs. ICTs led regeneration is a long drawn out process and numbers of people on training schemes or Web pages to help marketplaces are peripheral to the restructuring economy. Also, issues of involvement, ownership and control have to be faced in ICTs partnerships and the search for accountability has not necessarily equated with inclusion. Regeneration partnerships that see ICTs as an enabling means within their own locality have also to realise that it is not an imperative that they remain around, in form and structure, for long periods of time. If partnerships are facilitating mechanisms they should be prepared to help other groups and then leave the scene. However, it is important that they consider the longevity and sustainability of their initiative and they should avoid simply fading away as funding for ICTs projects come to an end. As more ICTs led regeneration schemes are funded then those partnerships that are able to integrate into a like-minded network of similar bodies and projects will likely find sustainability for regeneration is easier to achieve. Notes 1. My definition of ICTs refers to the convergence of computers, computer networks, and electronic communications such as the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) lines, the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and more broadly satellite communications in the context of the social relations that surround their application. See for example Southern and Tilley (2000). 2. This is argued in the European Services Forum, Second ESF Position Paper on GATS and Electronic Commerce, 16 June 2000 and I am grateful to a Canadian colleague for pointing this out (Shniad, 2000). 3. This has been covered in more detail elsewhere (see Southern, 2000). 4. For example, the years relating to the data here are inconsistent. Also the choice of variables even if pertinent are arbitrary but even more problematic is the so-called connectivity indicator. On the latter there is no way of relating the crude figures of use provided by the DTI to actual benefit for businesses or regional economies (see also Southern and Tilley, 2000). 5. I am grateful to Sid Shniad for pointing this out (see http://www.gov.nb.ca/nbfirst/). 6. Key documents include City of Sunderland Partnership Telematics Strategy: City of Sunderland. . .Virtually Unbeatable, October 1996 and Telematics Strategy: Making IT Work, June 1999, both from the Chief Executives Department: The City of Sunderland Council. References Archibugi, D., Howells, J. and Michie, J. (1999), Innovation Policy in a Global Economy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Benneworth, P. (2000), ``An initial assessment of the eight final regional economic strategies'', Regions, No. 225, pp. 9-21.
Borja, J. and Castells, M. (1997), Local and Global Management of Cities in the Information Age, Earthscan Publications Ltd, London. Castells, M. (1996), The Rise of the Network Society, Blackwell, Oxford.
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Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (2000), Benchmarking Study of E-business in the North East of England, CURDS, Newcastle. Chant, C. (Ed.) (1999), The Pre-Industrial Cities & Technologies Reader, Routledge, London. Childe, G. (1954), What Happened in History, Penguin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth. Cockerill, T. and Southern, A. (2000), ``There's only one North East: how the RDA is mapping the future of the region'', Northern Economic Review, Spring/Summer No. 30, pp. 35-52. Cockerill, T., Liddle, J. and Southern, A. (2000), ``Changes to the North East regional-local dynamic: new forms of governance from traditional public sector structures?'', Public Policy and Administration, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 110-26. Elam, M. (1994), ``Puzzling out the post-Fordist debate: technology, markets and institutions'', in Amin, A. (Ed.), Post-Fordism A Reader, Blackwell, Oxford. Ferguson, R.W. Jr (1999), Is Information Technology the Key to Higher Productivity Growth in the United States and Abroad?, speech to the 2000 Global Economic and Investment Outlook Conference, Carnegie Bosch Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 21 September. Available online: http://www.bog.frb.fed.us/ Fuller, T. and Southern, A. (1999), ``Small firms and information and communication technologies: policy issues and some words of caution'', Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 287-302. Greenspan, A. (1999), ``Information, productivity, and capital investment'', speech to the Business Council, Boca Raton, Florida, 28 October. Available online: http://www.bog.frb.fed.us/ Lovering, J. (1999), ``Theory led by policy: the inadequacies of the `New Regionalism' (Illustrated from the case of Wales)'', in International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Vol. 23 No. 2, pp. 379-95. Mandel, E. (1995), Long Waves of Capitalist Development: A Marxist Interpretation, 3rd ed., Verso, London. Marshall, A. (1899), Economics of Industry, Macmillan and Co. Ltd, London. Marshall, M. (1987), Long Waves of Regional Development, Macmillan, Basingstoke. Northern informatics (2000), The Regional Electronic Economy Programme Revision 3 Draft, August. One NorthEast (1999), Unlocking Our Potential, One NorthEast, Newcastle. Richardson, R., Belt, V. and Marshall, N. (1998/1999), ``Taking calls to Newcastle: call centres and economic development in the North East of England'', Northern Economic Review, No. 28, Winter, pp. 15-34. Robins, K. and Webster, F. (1999), Times of the Technoculture: From the Information Society to the Virtual Life, Routledge, London. Shaw, K. (1993), ``The development of a new urban corporatism: the politics of urban regeneration in the north east of England'', Regional Studies, Vol. 27 No. 3, pp. 251-9. Shniad, S. (2000), E-Commerce and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS): The Expanding Threat of Free Trade, Telecommunications Workers Union, Vancouver, British Columbia. Southern, A. (1997), ``Re-booting the local economy: information and communication technologies in local economic strategy'', Local Economy, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 8-25.
Southern, A. (2000), ``The political salience of the space of flows: information and communication technologies and the restructuring city'', in Wheeler, J.O., Warf, B. and Aoyama, O. (Eds), Fractured Geographies: Cities in the Telecommunications Age, Routledge, New York, NY. Southern, A. and Tilley, F. (2000), ``Small firms and information and communication technologies: towards a typology of usage'', New Technology, Work and Employment, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 138-54. Tees Valley Joint Strategy Unit (2000), Tees Valley Baseline Information, August. Todaro, M.P. (2000), Economic Development, Pearson Education Ltd, Harlow. UK Online for Business (2000), Business in the Information Age: International Benchmarking Study 2000, DTI, London.