ICT cluster developments in European cities during the 1990's: developoment patterns and policy lessons
The paper is based on a research project called "MUTEIS"(Macro-economic and Urban Trends in Europe's Information Society), a research project designed to get a better understanding of the different patterns of growth of cities and their ICT clusters in 12 urban regions across Europe. The research reveals developments over the 1990's, starting a few years before the dot.com hype, end ending with the first signs of the dot.com crises. The paper is based on the results of fieldwork in two different kind of regions in Finland, Ireland, Sweden and The Netherlands. One region being the national frontrunner in taking up ICT, the other being more remote, but apparently successful in ICT too. While Europe as a whole seems to have been slow in its transition towards the new, digital economy, these smaller European economies actually witnessed a rapid uptake in computer- and internet use and in ICT investment more generally over the second half of the 1990's, accompanied by a remarkable growth and employment performance over those same years. However, behind the aggregate stories of success, sometimes initiated by the private sector, sometimes by public authorities, we can see significant differences in the regional and urban development patterns in the field of ICT- and Internet use. We aim to get a better understanding of these disparities. What are the triggers for growth of an ICT-cluster? How does it affect the growth of the region - and vice versa? Which parameters constitute the critical factors for a region's success - or failure? What do the development roadmaps look like? Are they market-driven or government-driven, or rather based on new forms of partnership? How about the impact of the European and national institutional frameworks? Does policy matter? The quantitative part of the analysis is based on statistical data. It describes the size, composition and growth patterns of the ICT sectors over the 1990's. The paper reveals some interesting findings relative to the size, the location and the national hierarchy of urban regions themselves. This is followed by an in-depth analyses of qualitative differences between the ICT-clusters in the urban regions. This part of the paper is based on available data, existing documents and approx. 20 interviews in each region. The successful regions witnessed a more rapid diffusion of IST goods and services throughout their economies, appeared to be better equipped to exploit some of the new digital growth opportunities, adapted existing "old" economic activities to the new e-business environment and more generally learnt more from the new opportunities to exploit those advantages across the European Union. Furthermore, the national policy makers appeared to be more aware of the increasingly limited degrees of freedom of their national policy actions, liberalising more rapidly their national telecommunications monopolies.
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