Locational determinants of the ICT sector across Italy
Is the rapid growth of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) activities shaping new local specialization and industrial concentration? Does the analysis of local economic conditions help to explain the formation of “places” specialized in ICT? We use 2001 Census data by Local Labour Systems (LLS) to investigate the characteristics of ICT specialization in Italy. Our investigation is based on a cross-sectional regression model using data for 686 LLS in which the dependent variable is an index of ICT local employment concentration. The measure of concentration we adopted is the location quotient (LQ) index. The LLS specialized in ICT activities in Italy account for 7.3% of total LLS. They are distributed all over the country, although those with highest LQ values are mainly in North-west and Central-south Italy. Our regression analysis provides the following results. The general econometric specification, i.e. that applied to all LLS, supports a positive and significant relationship between LLS specialized in some manufacturing industries (machinery, equipment and instruments; petrochemicals, rubber and plastic products; transport equipment; and paper, publishing and printing) or business services and relatively high localization of ICT employment. Besides, the model indicates that for LLS characterized by manufacturing SMEs there is a low probability of attaining a greater-than-the-national-average ICT employment specialization. These econometric results are in line with the general opinion that product specialization of Italian industries (the so-called “Made in Italy”) and SMEs are less likely to be involved in ICT diffusion to business. Nevertheless, this pattern of results does not justify the interpretation that the industrial districts (where SMEs employment has the largest share) are at the origin of inadequate ICT diffusion to business in Italy. In fact, when the analysis is focused on industrial districts the results are slightly different. In particular, the variable SMEs does not produce a significant coefficient, while textile and clothing industries show a positive association with ICT, even though significant only at 10% level. What is the main policy implication of these empirical findings? National government’s policy makers should become aware that industrial districts are an appropriate instrument to promote the development of the ICT sector, although so far they have been neglected. "
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