Information and Communication Technologies

The contribution of new information and communication technologies to development processes and territorial dynamics is today at the center of many debates, both in terms of the control of information and the reduction of spatial distances. she would allow. The nature of the arguments put forward largely depends on the proposed interpretative schemes and the underlying assumptions about the development processes and more generally the interrelationships between the technical and the social.

For some thirty years some analyzes have considered technical progress as a revolution that would make it possible to abolish the physical distance and explode the traditional territories, implicitly relying on an economic analysis, classical or neoclassical where the costs of production are a function of transportation costs. The advent of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) would then be able to gradually erase regional disparities, reducing costs and promoting business movements to less favored areas

A renewal of the spatial issue of information and communication technologies:

The advent of communication networks and the irruption of “quasi-instantaneity” (the possibility of being at the same time here and elsewhere) largely raises the question of confrontation and the bringing together of spatial and temporal scales. G. DUPUY (1991) emphasizes the “scrambling of territorial scales” by the openness of the economy through the possible treatment of information on a different scale than that of an establishment or a pool of labor. H. BAKIS (1995) speaks of “an intangible bridge” between various levels of geographical space, which would bring together the local and the global, allowing an unprecedented articulation between these two scales. F. JAUREGUIBERRY (1999) judges that, for the first time in history, there would be a real possibility of breaking the space-time binomial where “saving one (space) would translate into gaining the other (time)” (p.44). However, and paradoxically in relation to the interest of the theme, studies on the spatial involvement of ICTs are little developed, thus reinforcing the idea of ​​a fragmentation of territories and a standardization of spaces.

A Debate on the possible spatial reorganizations due to ICT:

A large part of the literature makes abundant reference to the advent of a “society without distance”, of a “transparent space” populated by individuals without territorial attachment, which would lead to new forms of social relations, where the physical distance would be abolished in the same way as social distance in a globalized environment. However, the observation of facts leads today to a very different reading, and contradicts, at least temporarily, the thesis of the collapse of spatial scales or even the erasure of cities. Deterministically associating the development of transport and communication technologies, and forms of space organizations, appears very uncertain (PLASSARD, 1993).

This has however led to reinforce two “myths” (BEGAG, CLAISSE 1991). The first is that of spatial neutrality thanks to information technologies without distance and without temporal thickness (instantaneous); that of the impulse of a new organization of space with the abolition of constraints of distance and time, with unbridled prospects on teleworking, the end of the daily journey, the move from the city to the countryside. Some presuppositions, however widely contradicted, have contributed to the confusion that has been established between a geographical location and a media space with no physical distance.

The confrontation of the advocates of a triumphalist impulse giving ICT the power to transcend the constraints of time and space, – arguments often put forward by political discourses on the “information society” – to negation of any influence of ICT on dynamics territorial and localization of economic activities, leads to questioning and going beyond an ICT approach in terms of structuring effects. Such an approach had already been criticized for road infrastructures and the direct links of causality that it tried to establish with regional development (PLASSARD, 1977); the same goes for the transmission of information for which the reasoning was extended in the mid-1980s. Thus, going beyond the limits of the previous analysis, requires repositioning the spatial issue of ICTs on new interactions (RALLET, 1994 BAKIS, 1995) and the demonstration of “dynamic complementarities” (RALLET, TORRE, 1999).

Spatial concentrations and articulation of scales:

Far from causing socio-spatial differentiation or “the end of cities,” the ICT seem to participate in a process of acceleration and widening socio-spatial polarities. The mobility of people, goods and information, driven by the combination of information technologies and transport, only accelerates the phenomenon of agglomeration. ” The current economy is not a mere space of flow, it is also a space of the places […] this one is no longer a territory in the traditional sense, namely an extent defined by its borders, foundation and field exercise of an administrative authority. It is a territory without extension, defined by resources whose mobilization is strongly localized (dependent on the place) and whose valorization is realized in the articulation with other places  “(RALLET, 1994, p.211).

ICT contextualization:

It would be incorrect to think that spatial homogeneity rests solely on the availability of telecommunication means. ICTs are part of an already highly differentiated space and a pre-existing spatial organization: heterogeneity of population densities, unequal distribution of industrial or tertiary activities. These spatial disparities of economic or social factors constitute an unavoidable fact, a product of history and the social. The geography of telecommunications largely reveals this pre-existing spatial organization: infrastructures, equipment parks, distribution of services.

Thus, A. RALLET (1993) analyzes the impact of networks in the formation of regional disparities and relativizes two forms of territorial discrimination in information technologies – by access and by cost – in developed countries. Technological and regulatory developments in this field play a vital role in demand, whereas discourses on the structuring effects of ICTs – inheritors of transport policy – overestimate supply and neglect the role of technology. demand in the formation of networks. For example, the spatial deployment of the Internet is an example. E. EVENO (1999) shows that the most dynamic geographical sites are the big cities. In these spaces, there is no need for public policies to spur ICT development.