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Stadtvernetzung - Magistrat / City Management and the Networks Vienna City Hall, February 1995
Managing Cities With the Help of Telecommunications

Abstract     Lecture     Author

Carl Strack - Carl STRACK - European Commission, DG XIII (B)



  1. Introduction
  2. The city as part of a socio-economic area
    1. Possible evolution of the city because of telematics
    2. Symbiosis
  3. Establishing in general what telematics can do for cities
  4. Establishing its role for a particular city
  5. What the E. C. is doing in this particular area



Good morning ladies and gentlemen. My talk this morning concerns "Managing cities with the help of Telecommunications" or I prefer to use the word Telematics, since Telecommunications without Informatics is no longer conceivable. It is not my intention to deal with the use of Telematics as a tool for improving the efficiency of the services a city offers to its inhabitants and visitors, important though this may be, but to address the responsibility that all public authorities, be they national, regional or local, now have concerning socio-economic development. I will deal firstly with the effects the introduction of Telematics and the Information Society has on this socio-economic development, then discuss some possible areas where Telematics can be used to positively influence this development and finally, briefly indicate how the European Commission is contributing to work in this area.

It is interesting to note that Telematics and the Information Society are, at one and the same time, both the cause of and the possible solution to a problem. The growth in the use of Telematics has created economic problems for our cities that perhaps only the use of Telematics can solve. The globalisation of society through Telematics will obviously, and in some cases already has, led to a delocalisation of work from the traditional advanced industrialised countries to newer developing ones with lower wage rates. This tendency, of the movement of work to where it can be done at lowest cost is not new, it has always existed, and in the manufacturing industries such as the car industry, has been global in its effect since the 50's and 60's. However we now have the possibility that it will be applied to the so-called "services sector" which has till recently been regarded as a "protected area". This is the problem posed by Telematics: In a world were the majority of economic activity will be capable of being carried out anywhere, how does one organise oneself to attract the necessary amount of economic activity to a particular location, in our case a city.

The city as part of a socio-economic area

I would like here, before discussing how cities may promote economic activity in the Information Society, underline one aspect of this society which one has a tendency to forget. I refer to it as the Hot Croissant syndrome. When the geographical relationship between one's place of work and the point of delivery of this work no longer exists, for instance when an doctor can treat a patient hundreds or thousands of kilometres away, the choice of a place to live is no longer directly linked to the delivery point of the work one does. However man is not a collection of electronic signals and has to choose a place to live. If he believes it is of prime importance to start his day with a good hot croissant he will choose to live where good hot croissant are easily available. Or to put it another way the factors which will influence his choice will be manifold and include such things as possible leisure activities, level of health care, quality of housing and the environment, training facilities etc. The role of the city in the Information Society can no longer be considered solely from the point of view of economic activity but must be considered from the point of view of the city as a complete socio-economic and cultural entity.

Possible evolution of the city because of telematics

Thus Telematics will have an important influence on the role of cities, but it will also affect their relationship with their hinterland. Telematics does not only suppress distances of thousands of kilometres but also in other circumstances of tens of kilometres. When people do not have to travel regularly for professional reasons, the size of a "reasonable journey" (e.g. to a restaurant or a sporting activity, which until teleporting becomes a reality will still require physical presence!), the size of this acceptable journey will probably increase. A journey made infrequently, which can be made at a convenient time, can probably be longer than a regular one made at a fixed time and still be acceptable. In the planning exercise it will be necessary to take into account a larger area than traditionally associated with a city because of this local effect of telematics


This increasing symbiosis between cities and the surrounding area can be positive in terms of economic activity even in the Information Society. Telematics will not remove specific local characteristics. Globally available teleservices may in many cases be capable of receiving locally added value either in terms of presentation (preselection of information, standardisation of presentation between different sources, language) or in content i.e. the addition of locally generated information.

Establishing in general what telematics can do for cities

Telematics is more than just a tool for the automation of existing tasks, it can be a powerful force for influencing the future development of cities. However I would argue that for this effect to be positive requires a detailed and comprehensive approach on the part of the responsible authorities to the place of telematics in the development of the city. Telematics cannot be treated as an "add-on" to the current situation, as a "second, third or thousandth string to one's bow". It should be treated as an integral part of the make-up of the city on the same level as the traffic infrastructure, housing, schools, parks and other open spaces etc. I was looking at a proposed inner city development plan recently, with quite a large budget. Property was to be bought and renovated, open spaces created, small business parks built, and in all this not one mention of the telecommunications infrastructure that would be provided! I know that telematics infrastructure has some similarities with drains - you are only aware of there presence when you need to use them and I'm not aware of a any statue being raised to a great builder of drains nor of any to a great installer of optical fibre. Perhaps that day will come.

As I have already said we have had a global manufacturing society, certainly for many type of goods like cars, electronic equipment, electrical appliances, for many years. The exact location of these activities is in some cases historic and in other cases the result of a search for lower production and distribution costs. Whilst a parallel to a certain extent may be drawn with the "manufacturing of information", there is one major difference, the reloc

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