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Information and communication technology policy in European cities: a comparative approach

Authors
Disciplines
  • Communication
  • Computer Science
  • Design
  • Linguistics

Abstract

Information and communication technology (ICT) is widely accepted as a potentially favourable set of instruments, which may improve the welfare and competitiveness of nations and cities. Nowadays, both public and private actors aim to exploit the expected benefits of ICT developments. The authors seek to investigate the potential of ICT use at an urban level and, in particular, to shed more light on various factors that influence urban ICT policies in the public domain. First, a conceptual framework, designed to improve understanding of the driving forces of urban ICT policies, is outlined. It focuses on the way decisionmakers perceive their city, and shape their opinions about ICT; it addresses in particular the way these decisionmakers evaluate the importance of ICT for their city. Next, interviews with urban decisionmakers in different European cities in three countries (Austria, Spain, and the Netherlands) are used to analyse the complex relationship between perceived urban characteristics (for example, nature of problems and urban image), personal attitudes towards ICT, administrative features of the cities concerned, and perceptions of the relevance of ICT to the cities. The authors' main focus is on the identification of a possible systematic relationship between the aforementioned explanatory factors and urban decisionmakers' attitudes towards ICT policies. Understanding the decisionmakers' perceptions is an important step towards grasping the nature and substance of the policy itself, and may explain some of the variance among different cities. Because the 'urban ICT' discourse is still relatively new, an open-interview method is used to capture a variety of different views and perceptions on ICT and on the information age in the city. With the aid of qualitative content analysis, the interview results are transformed into a more systematic and tlsb>comparable form. The results suggest that even interviewees from the same city may have a different understanding of their urban reality whereas, on the other hand, cities with different characteristics may appear to suffer from similar problems. Moreover, the authors found a wide range of attitudes toward ICT and its expected social impacts, although most of the interviewees appeared to be more sceptical than had been expected. The authors identified a clear need for a more thorough investigation of background factors and, therefore an approach originating from the field of artificial intelligence -- rough-set analysis -- was deployed to offer a more rigorous analysis. This approach helped in the characterisation and understanding of perceptions and attitudes regarding urban policies, problems, and images.

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