Patterns of Future Telecommunications

Kresten Storgaard
Housing and Urban Planning Division,
Danish Building Research Institute
Hørsholm, Denmark

1. Introduction

As has already been discussed for several years, the development in telematics might influence the geographical pattern of settlement as well as the location of firms. The house/home seems to be a central place for a significant part of this exchange of information.

At the Danish Building Research Institute we have experience from two projects. In the first one we followed local experiments with information technology which took place in Denmark in the late eighties. Also experience with telework was achieved.

Later on the implementation in Denmark underwent a more subdued development, and research has especially been related to projects taking place in EU programs - especially under the ORA -program (Opportunities of using telematics in Rural Areas). Under this program we participate in the BIRD-project. BIRD stand for Better (telematic-) Infrastructure for Rural Development.

2. Methods of analysing future trends

One of the problems of planning telematics is that this technology is developing very fast. Today a ten- year period is a long time when speaking about telecommunications.

One method is to make experiments. In Denmark 16 experiments took place in local communities in the late eighties. Here real users met the new information technology. SBI followed three of these project with research activities in an approach which we named dialog research - this approach included both a traditional evaluation - and a continuous dialog with the individual experiment, where results and experience were discussed. Many results were obtained in these experiments. But it was also evident that too much time was spent on purely technical problems - with negative influence on motivation and results as a consequence. The technique used was not developed properly.

The BIRD project attacked the problem through three working packages. In the first one a DELFI technique was used concerning an analysis of the applications which are basic if one wants to understand how the demand for telecommunication might be.

The technology was mainly analysed through inside BIRD knowledge about what was going on in the leading firms and research institutes concerning terminals, networks and satellites.

Finally, specific rural communities representing different types of rural areas were analysed as case studies concerning the establishment of evolution scenarios representing both usage scenarios (users and applications) as well as technical scenarios representing specific ways of telecommunication networks. Then a techno- economic evaluation as well as a socio- economic impact evaluation took place.

3. Users and applications

The central part of the problem is the relationship between user and application. In the EU much money is invested in research programs concerning development of new Information Technology. Often with point of departure from the technology (e.g. the RACE program). Lately more focus is placed upon the users - a tendency which is followed in the fourth research program.

In the ORA- research program especially the possibility of using telematics in rural areas has been investigated. As mentioned previously SBI has participated in one of these projects, the BIRD project. The purpose of the project was to identify a feasible technical strategy for the provision of infrastructures to support advanced telematic services in rural areas of the EC. Special attention was paid to base this on an analysis of applications and user needs.

Ten partners (representating telecompanies, producers of tele- technology as well as research institutions) from seven countries have carried out the project. Head contractor was CET in Portugal.

Through a DELFI analysis 48 experts from five countries (Portugal, Greece, Denmark, UK, France) were interviewed concerning this relation. Through a questionnaire the following themes were analysed: User and application, traffic descriptors, location and network, penetration and effect - and introduction and price.

Seven types of applications were analyzed (derived from the RACE- program). The applications are as follows:

* Distributed Learning and Training (DLT)
* Remote Delivery of Expertise (RDE)
* Monitoring and Surveillance( M&S)
* Telemarketplace (TMP)
* Entertainment and Leisure Distribution (ELD)
* Distributed Decision Making (DDM)
* Distributed Collaborative Design (DCD)

Traditional teleworking is seen as part of DCD, but other forms of telework might include other applications, while social messaging (such as traditional telephone interaction among family members, etc) is seen as part of ELD.

Six different type of users were analysed:

* Households
* Self-employed
* Companies
* Public Utilities
* Visitors

In table 1 is shown the relation between users and applications. It is obvious that especially households are users of Entertainment (ELD) and Telemarket (TMP), while professionals (companies, self- employed and public institutions) are users of a bigger variety of applications, especially Telelearning (DLT), remote Expertise (RDE) and Monitoring and Surveillance (M&S), but also Decisionmaking and Collaborative Design (DDM, DCD).

Compared to the experts in the BIRD- team the DElfI experts were more releuctant in their assessment of telework which was seen as part of the DCD application. On the other hand there was much awareness about for instance telelearning in the home, which indicates a view of the home as not being a site only for passive consumption of entertainment or other information.

Table 1. Applications and users

(pct. of experts' yes- answers)
                       DLT      RDE      M&S    TMP      ELD      DDM        DCD     

Households              63       42      61     92       95       0           12     
Companies               78       95      95     78       10       95          92     
Self-employed           92       87      70     72       28       38          62     
Public Inst.            76       74      85     58       25       95          82     
Visitors                14       39      10     58       72       32          16     

If this pattern is transformed into intensity of teletraffic per terminal (in terms of Erlang (frequency x duration of calls)), table 2, it is obvious that ELD (including cable- tv) acccounts for much of the future traffic - but only from households. Companies account for much traffic in DCD and DDM, self- employed in DLT and DCD, while Public Inst. use much time with DLT, DDM, and DCD. Contrary to the assessment of the BIRD team itself, the DELFI- experts only assessed Visitor to contribute very little to the future traffic.

Households showed to be a very important site in the development of the future traffic in telecommunication.

Table 2 Traffic by application and user. (in Erlang)

                     DLT     RDE         M&S    TMP      ELD      DDM      DCD      

Households           2.9     o.2         0.2    0.9      26.8     0.0      0.1      
Companies            7.8     2.6         2.6    1.4      0.1      15.8     *        
Self-employed        3.0     1.1         0.8    1.0      0.3      0.6      4.6      
Public Inst.         5.3     2.3         2.3    1.0      0.5      4.9      3.8      
Visitors             0.1     0.2         0.0    0.3      2.8      0.2      0.1      
Note *: not possible to estimate in figures, but very high!

Also the overall effect as well as the penetration rate were assessed.
The results from the questionnaire are shown in table 3.

Table 3. Order of application effect and penetration rate during a ten-year period.

             DLT    RDE      M&S      TMP      ELD      DDM      DCD      

Effect        2     1        5        6        7        3        4        
Penetration   4     5        3        2        1        6        7        

The BIRD project concluded that the applications which might have the highest rate of penetration, would have none or little influence on the possibilities of social development, whereas the applications which might have the highest effect on rural development, would have smaller rate of penetration relying only on the free forces of the market.

Looking at the different types of rural areas a similar picture appears, see table 4.

Table 4. Order of effect and penetration (10 years) in a rural area

                   A         B       C        D        E       

Penetration        2         1       3        4        5       
Effect             5         4       1        2        3       

Relying only on the free market forces the areas with the highest effect can only expect a low penetration, whereas in the areas with the highest penetration - the most urban ones - the effect will only be limited.

4. The pattern of telework

According to the EU Commission telework is assumed to play an important role in future Europe. Hereby new jobs are created - and new opportunities are seen for remote areas. It is a rather optimistic view - and maybe not very realistic.

It seems that reality is far more differentiated both concerning the acteurs as well as the consequences.

From the Danish experiments concerning information technology it has become evident that telework can take many forms - and wishes, possibilities and consequences are closely related to culture and ways of life. In the Danish material a distinction can be made among three types of telework, each related to the three most dominating ways of life.

Home- based telework is related to the self- employed way of life. Where this way of working may have negative consequences in other ways of life, this is not the case in the self- employed way of life. On the contrary - it is often seen as a dream come true.

Working in a telecenter is a possibility in the wage- earner way of life. In this culture one does not want the mix of employed work and home life. And one certainly does not want to work free- lance. The tele-center seems to suit this way of life fine. The barriers to realise this form of telework are neither technological, cultural nor educational ones - but most of all the objective is to attract tasks to the telehouse - tasks someone want to pay for.

In other life styles - e.g. the career oriented way of life - the solution is more complex - here flexible telework or mobile telework is suitable. Still most people need the traditional office. It is necessary to give the company or the flow of information and relations the personal touch which one need in order not to weaken one's position in the organisation. This form of telework gives the individual the possibility of mixing time in a very efficient way - to the benefit of the job - as well as family- life. But the mix also constitutes a danger. The job can easily dominate.

All in all the experience points to a future where firms and employees which can use the possibilities of flexible telework may benefit. Employers and unions have difficulties in finding a standpoint in this development. In fact, it is difficult. Firstly, to translate information work into measurable standards. Secondly, to change the traditional means of control, guardianship and fear into trust, responsibility and motivation. The winners of the future are companies which can make this transformation real.

5. Geographical differences

Rural areas may vary considerably. Some are close to cities, others are very remote. Some are characterized by a high level of economic activities and are highly populated, others by a very high rate of unemployment and emigration - just to mention a few parameters. In the BIRD project a typology was used arranging the rural areas into five types - from the most urban ones to the most remote ones. The typology was elaborated in cooperation with another ORA project - TYPORA.

The types of areas were as follows:

A: Urban Imprint Zone.
Ranging from suburbs to areas in commuting distance from urban centers.

B: High Amenity and Advantaged Areas.
Areas which are either in commuting distance of urban/regional centers or have high amenity due to more special circumstances.

C: Developed and balanced Areas
Areas which have no distinctive areas like A and B, and which compared to D and E seem to be in a state of equilibrium.

D: Areas with development potential.
Areas defined as unstable due to a lack of sufficient commercial activities to avoid an exodus.

E: Areas requiring economic restructuring.
Areas very similar to D, but the "instability" is often caused by extreme remoteness and isolation.

Can the same typology be used in different countries? To illustrate the interpretation of the BIRD team concerning this important question fig. 1. is shown. It is the assessment that the different types of areas can be found in all countries involved in the analysis, but while the A - areas only differ very little, there might exist very significant differences especially in the D and the E areas.

Fig. 1. Variation in type of areas by country

It is important to stress that the five types of rural areas do not represent a linear model of rural development, even though the economic activities are often at a higher level in the most urban areas - and at a low level in the most remote areas. It is the experience that advanced users of telecommunication can be found in all types of rural areas - and not only in the most urban ones, as many planners and politicians seem to believe. What differs, however, is the number of such advanced users. In D and E areas the number of users is generally small.

The process of regional development is highly influenced and determined by the economic structure of the area, which more or less is connected to access to factors important to the process of production and innovation. Also the political support to the area is significant.

To evaluate the realism in establishing a teleinfrastructure in these types of rural areas theoretical - or paper/computer - case studies took place in seven areas. Based on the actual figures of population, economy, social structure and culture, usage scenarios were elaborated. Then technical scenarios which fulfilled these user-based needs were chosen.

Next step was to evaluate the infrastructure, both in terms of technical, economic and socio- economic terms.

On the map (fig.2) the seven case studies are shown. Table 5 gives some key figures and the matrix (fig.3) shows how the individual case study can be characterized in terms of the rural typology.

On fig.4 is shown the configuration of the suggested network in the two Danish case study areas - the island of Samsø in the Sea of Kattegat, and the Ebeltoft area, in the vicinity of Århus.

Fig. 2. The Case Studies

Table 5. Key figures of the case studies

Fig.3: Case studies and the rural typology.

Fig.4. Configuration of the suggested network in the Danish case studies.

6. New settlement pattern

It is the conclusion of the BIRD team that teleinfrastructures can be established on an economically profitable basis even in the most rural areas - but the profitability will be on a lower level than in most urban areas. Most of these rural networks will be wired networks, but where special geographical conditions complicate this, radio- links or satellites will be satisfactory solutions for most applications.

Another conclusion is that telecommunication in most cases will contribute positively to the socio- economic development in the specific geographical areas to which the case studies belong, both concerning accessibility of some factors of production and innovation (which may effect a rise in employment) and in the services which can be offered to the population in rural areas.

Not all types of application and telecommunication will contribute positively to the development of the rural areas. Part of the ELD application (entertainment and leisure) - may have negative influence on local culture, family life, etc.

This future trend seems to affect the settlement structure. A greater pressure on sites attractive to people - because of natural beauty, local culture, etc. But there will still be losers in the process of local development. This development arranges the elements of a new geographical pattern of settlement.

At the general level a better access to settling down where one want to live, can be identified. Not a free choice, of course, but people who want to live in a specific area, do have better opportunities to do so, if they have the qualifications of doing telework - and if they have the network with which to interact. And here network means professional contact with other agents.

This indicates that areas which are specially attractive, for instance due to beautiful, natural surroundings or the local culture, etc. - can get new opportunities for development. Compared with the situation of today, this might be a radical change especially in D and the E - areas. In these areas there might be an influx of people bringing with them the sufficient network/contacts which allow them to do a least part of their job in the new surroundings. Some living here permanently, others only part- time, often in summercottages/second homes, living in the center the remaining part of the year.

In areas which are not specially attractive to customers, it can be difficult to use the possibilities of teleworking. Here the local people not only have to learn how to handle the new technology - but they also have to establish contact to new clients. And this can be a very hard job. In areas where there is a tradition of wage earning, telecenters might be useful. And to find customers for the telework carried out here might be a significant - and difficult - task in a policy for local development.

A new process of sub- sub- urbanisation around the cities, where well educated people are teleworking on a flexible basis, might be recognised. Pendling to town three or four times a week, working at home for the remaining time. And home would be located in attractive areas - often of great natural beauty - or in local communities with good social and cultural amenities. Also will be seen an extra pressure on settlement outside towns - a process of x- urbanisation.

This indicates a reinforcement of creating ghettoes - not for the have-nots, but for the well-off people, the highly educated. This segment of the population will get better opportunities to chose more freely where they want to live.

In that situation the home will be an even more important element in the everyday life for this segment of the population.


1. Partners of the BIRD team are:

CET - Centro de Estudos de Telecommunicoes (Portugal)
INTRCOM (Greece)
JT - Jydsk Telefon (Denmark)
NOKIA (Finland)
NTUA - National Technical University of Athens (Greece)
SBI - Danish Building Research Institute (Denmark)
SECMAT N.t. (France)
Sofrecom (France)
TELEFUNKEN Sendertechnik (Germany)
UCWA - University College of Wales, Aberystwyth (GB)


Vol 3 - Evolution Scenarios
Vol 3 - Annex 1 - Mangualde Case Study
Vol 3 - Annex 2 - Requiesta Case Study
Vol 3 - Annex 3 - Ceredigion Case Study
Vol 3 - Annex 4 - Kuusamo Case Study
Vol 3 - Annex 5 - Ebeltoft and Samsø Case Studies
Vol 3 - Annex 6 - North Andros Case Study
Vol 3 - Annex 7 - The Application of Geographic Information Systems in the Rural Network Scenario - UWA Experience

Especially concerning Danish Experience, see:
T.Cronberg, m.fl.: Danish Experiments - Social Constructions of Technology.(in this publication the experience from Danish experiments with information technology in local communities is described (in English) in 14 articles).

K.Storgaard, O.M.Jensen: Informationsteknologi, lokal udvikling og livsformer. SBI- byplanlægning 61. Statens Byggeforskningsinstitut 1992. (Summary in English).

K.Storgaard: Telework, the Local Community and Way of Life. In Scandinavian Housing & Planning Research 10: 21 -35, 1993.

Return to HOIT 94 Proceedings