Information And Communications Technology: Teleworking Essay

2009 words - 8 pages

Information and Communications Technology - the case of teleworking.
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Developments in information and communications technologies are having
profound effects on employment in rural areas and also possibly on the
competitive advantage of rural areas. This latter point will depend on
the extent to which rural areas are able to 'capture a higher share of
information and knowledge related work than has been the case in the
past.' (Bryden, 1997). Bryden sees 'information' as a cash commodity,
which is able to empower and to improve democracy, with great
potential for development of rural areas which have hitherto seen less
of the expansion in teleworking than have urban or semi urban areas.

ICT, while opening up new opportunities for rural areas, in cutting
through the barriers of distance and the problems in accessing
markets, can also pose dangers in job losses associated with automated
banking, remote monitoring etc. However, Bryden points out that rather
than focusing on direct employment creation through tele-defined
businesses, more important for the future of rural areas is "the
impact of telecommunications infrastructure on the competitiveness of
rural firms in general, and the impact on employment in these firms if
a positive strategy on telecommunications is not adopted."
(Bryden,1997)

Bryden also argues that the huge potential for the ICT revolution to
be realised in rural areas can only be enabled through strategic
planning in the public and voluntary spheres, rather than being left
to the private sector. Without access to high speed, low cost digital
communications networks, remote rural areas will be unable to realise
the benefits of ICT work. Crucial to employers' decisions to locate in
rural areas is the availability of skilled labour, relatively low
labour costs, access to government grants and the quality of
telecommunications. There are certainly examples of significant ICT
related businesses in rural Scotland - e.g. the Forres Telework
Centre, Thurso Call Centre and the ICT Advisory Service in the Western
Isles, but further investment in ICT would significantly improve the
competitive advantage of rural areas.

Such investment has shown results in the Western Isles - one of the
most peripheral areas of the British Isles. Initial developments in
ICT related work in the Western Isles were spurred on by the £20m BT
investment in high speed digitised exchanges in the Highlands and
Islands. Smith (1998) describes an 'increasingly targeted approach' to
the development of ICT in the Western Isles, which has enabled many
new job opportunities, particularly in the area of tele-working. Smith
also highlights the importance of ICT opportunities as helping to
retain some of the young people in remote areas by providing skilled
work, and also perhaps in encouraging young people who have left to
return to the Western Isles.

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