The Role of Internet Services in Regionalization
David RYLANDER <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This paper deals with the changing contact pattern in the Baltic Sea region and the role Internet services play in the context of regionalization and globalization, including interregional, cross-border cooperation and competition.
In order to deal with a growing interregional competition, structural changes, and high levels of unemployment, a growing local and regional policy intervention in telecommunications is leading to an increasing number of telematics projects with the objective to serve as demonstrations of adopted network services. Investments in information and communication infrastructure are made, and adopted network services are being created as tools to deal with structural problems like deindustrialization and unemployment. The creation of city and regional networks, together with a wide range of network services, is one of the results of the trend toward more entrepreneurial appearances of urban-regional governance in order to boost the economy, develop social and community applications of ICT, and develop collaborative networks among cities based on ICT applications. The broadest possibilities are offered by network services carried by computer networks like the Internet, where full interactivity is combined with the full variety of scope of communication. This kind of communication can be realized in real time or with time delay as preferred, and the content can be multiformed in text, sound, and pictures. These are some of the reasons why WWW services on the Internet are growing in use and diffuse rapidly. ICT provides opportunities for mobilizing resources like education, skills, and organizational and institutional capacity. We have to consider the communication culture within a region to understand the impact of interactive means of communication with a cross-border feature like Internet services. In societies marked by equality, dialogue, and transparency, the telephone deployed faster than in societies where the regimes prefer to have a monologue with the people. The same pattern is valid for Internet services.
In order to analyze the regionalization processes and the role of Internet services in regional development, I will focus on two subregions located on the Baltic coast. One is Blekinge Län in the southeast of Sweden and the other is Gdansk Wojewodzkie located in the north of Poland. These two regions have been chosen because of the existence of enhanced interregional relationships and extensive regional development programs in which telematics projects play a significant role. Both regions are on the periphery of Europe. For these reasons they offer good opportunities to study the role of Internet services in regionalization.
The assumption I make is that the capacity and quality of the information and communication infrastructure, together with a growing use of network services, result in an increase in communication activity, and that the communication culture therefore is also deepening in areas where access to ICT only recently has been possible. Closely related to this is the process of innovation diffusion. Innovations diffuse with different speed in different regions because of regional features such as differences in political and economic systems, traditions, and economic strength.
The role of Internet services in regionalization and regional development is in the first place a question of a growing group of innovations and applications that can be part of the solution to regain competitiveness. Regional and local actors hope that innovations in the area of ICT will result in new products and services that can help boost the regional economy. To some extent, this is already the case in some places. But Internet services have also another distinguishing feature: as communication channels that help spread information about themselves and other innovations and thus support innovation processes as well as diffusion processes. This makes Internet services essential for a learning economy and a learning region.
In order to achieve the purpose and accomplish the study, an overview and analysis of the role of ICT in economic development and deepened democratization respectively are carried out. Concepts are analyzed and the differences in infrastructural development in eastern, southern, and western Europe are visualized. This gives support for the assumption that we can expect differences in diffusion of network services between the two subregions serving as case studies. The analysis describes which differences occur, why they occur, and how they came to be. Collection of data has been carried out through studies of literature, articles in newspapers and journals, research reports, public statistics, regional development programs, and information from relevant organizations on the WWW. In addition, interviews have been carried out within the framework of the ongoing research project, "The Role of Network Services in Regional Development"; a few of them are referred to in this paper. The interviewees are representatives of local and regional authorities, enterprises, telecom operators, and regional development agencies. A questionnaire with open questions is used, to allow the respondents to discuss various aspects of regional development and associated problems according to their specific situation. The interviews took about one hour each to complete. A comparative analysis is carried out and conclusions are drawn.
The paper deals with the changing contact pattern in the Baltic Sea region and the role Internet services play in the context of regionalization and globalization. In order to deal with the increase of interregional competition, structural changes and high levels of unemployment, a growing local and regional policy intervention in ICT (Information and Communication Technology) has resulted in a large number of telematics projects. The objective of those projects is to serve as a demonstration of applications in order to spread the use of the applications among potential users like small businesses and households.
Enhanced investments in infrastructure and the creation of city networks and regional networks, together with a wide range of applications, comprise some of the results of the trend towards more entrepreneurial appearances of urban-regional governance in order to boost the economy, to develop social and community applications of ICT and to further develop collaborative networks between cities (Harvey 1989, Graham 1994). At the same time as those collaborative networks facilitate the linkage between localities and the global market, they also form the local response to the negative consequences of the increase of inter-regional competition.
The broadest possibilities to result in applications which will fill the needs of small businesses and households are offered by network services carried by computer networks like Internet, where interactivity is combined with the full variety of the scope of communication. In addition to this, the communication can be carried through in real time or with time delay, whichever is preferred, and the content could be multiformed in text, sound and pictures. These conditions also form the reasons behind why Internet services are growing in use and diffuse rapidly. The explosive development of the Internet and the World Wide Web demonstrates that Internet is the medium where commercial and end users' interests converge. The 1980s vision of universal broad band ISDN service for residential subscribers, delivered through optical fibers at rates of 155 Mbps and above, has given way to more diverse and less expensive access systems. These systems are oriented more towards Internet access than traditional services.
Internet services and other kinds of network services provide opportunities for mobilizing resources like education, skills and organizational and institutional capacity. In discussing the role of Internet services in regionalization, we also have to consider the communication culture within a country or a region, in order to understand the impact of interactive means of communication with a cross-border feature like Internet services. In societies characterized by dialogue and transparency, the telephone deployed faster than it did in societies where the regimes preferred to have a monologue with the people (Rylander 1994, 1996). The same pattern is valid for Internet services, but in the contemporary complex processes of globalization and regionalization, the diffusion of Internet services is going more rapidly. The regional implications are analyzed in this paper. What role do Internet services play in the context of regionalization?
The issues in this presentation are related to the diffusion of innovations, the construction of large technical systems, changing prerequisites for economic development and the competitive power of different geographical areas. Thus, the study is connected to the innovation theory, the theory of large technical systems, the migration theory and the concept of the product life cycle.
In order to analyze the regionalization processes and the role of Internet services, this study focuses on two subregions located on the Baltic coast: Blekinge Lan in the southeast of Sweden and Gdansk Wojewodztwo located in the north of Poland. The two regions have been chosen due to the fact that there are enhanced interregional relationships and further extensive regional development programs in which telematics projects play a significant role. Both are subregions in the Baltic Sea region, which has become more integrated since the iron curtain vanished in 1989. For these reasons they offer good opportunities to study the role of Internet services in regionalization.
An assumption of the study is that the enhanced capacity and quality of the information and communication infrastructure together with a growing use of Internet services, result in an increase of the communication activity and that the communication culture therefore also is deepening in areas where universal or at least fairly good access to ICT, only recently has begun to be realized. Closely related to this is the process of innovation diffusion. Innovations diffuse with different speed in different regions. This is due to regional features as for instance the differences in contemporary and previous political and economic system, traditions, and the economic strength a region has achieved which together, to some extent, reflect the attitudes to change and willingness to adapt new ICTs among the inhabitants (comp. Hägerstrand 1953, Rogers 1983).
An overview and analysis of the role of ICT in economic development and deepened democratization respectively have been carried out. Concepts have been analyzed and the differences in infrastructural development between eastern, southern and western Europe are visualized during the presentation. This gives support for the assumption that we can expect differences in diffusion of network services between the two subregions serving as case studies. The analysis also points out which differences occur, why they occur and how they came to be. Collection of data has been carried out through studies of literature, articles in newspapers and journals, research reports, public statistics, local and regional development programs and information from relevant organizations on the World Wide Web (WWW). Besides, interviews have been carried out within the framework of the ongoing research project "The role of network services in regional development." The interviewees are representatives of local and regional administrations, telecom operators, Internet providers and regional development agencies as well as end users of services created through telematics projects.
The sum of all transborder phenomena have created a new state of order called globalization. The nations are becoming less closed and homogenous and instead absorb elements from outside so they eventually get another character. Society is changing gestalt from a nation-based to a globally based hegemony. The process is not new, influences have always flowed between cultures and countries. But in our time this process is taking a large leap, and the old institutions are targets for hard constraints due to these global influences (Karlsson et al 1997). The transnational corporations use enabling technologies, e.g., ICT, to take advantage of political and social-economic differences between territorial states and between regions within territorial states. They can control their economic activities in several countries and move capital and production relatively easily (Dicken 1992). Technological development of information processing, transport systems and communication systems have increased the mobility and flexibility of the economic activities, both in space and time. Localization factors and transport costs have decreased in relative significance in comparison to human capital, i.e., knowledge and competence (Andersson & Strömquist 1988, Bennet 1991).
Globalization means that the world becomes more and more available to businesses, institutions, organizations and individuals, due to the diffusion of ICT-applications like Internet services and the experienced utility users find in them. But it should be remembered that the majority of the world's population still lacks access to the global Internet, especially is this the case in Africa, Asia and Latin America (Oman 1995, Rylander 1997).
The competition of regions is becoming more evident on a macro regional and global scale. The preconditions of interregional competition and cooperation are the development of transport technology and ICT. The advancement of the processes of globalization and regionalization and the importance of ICT and Internet services in this context imply a gradual shift of the social structure from having been based on national space to being based on social networks supported by ICT and Internet services. The territorial nation-state's future role and the localities' possibilities of responding to negative socio-economic consequences, and offer good preconditions for deepened democratization and vitalization of the economy are related to the intricate interplay between the processes of globalization and regionalization. The territorial state stands in a problematic relationship towardss that value structure that we can expect to grow in the near future, and which can be called postnationalistic, characterized by globalism, multiculturalism, heterogeneity and postmodernism (Karlsson et al 1997).
The growing role of network services and the opportunities for innovation, e.g., applications based on Web technology, suggest the most prospective tendency to be the development of regional networks based on cooperation between localities to decrease the disadvantages of global market competition; i.e., severe socio-economic consequences in the form of de-industrialization and unemployment (Korompai 1994, Rylander 1996).
Regionalization refers to regional integration. Integration is defined as a process where different units are unified. This means closer cooperation between actors based on common values and increased division of labor. More specifically, regionalization is defined as a process where different subregions increasingly are involved in cooperation and the integration of economy, culture, politics and social arrangements. It can be described as a process where rural areas, cities, enterprises, administrations and other organizations are being linked together in social networks aiming on growing cooperation and exchange in a wide field of activities. The process also aims at a stronger regional identity. Closely related to the concept regionalization is regionness (Hettne 1997). Different shades of regionness mean that a certain region can be more or less integrated as such.
An important criterion on "regionness" is the region's ability to manage its own regional conflicts. The concept "regionness" should be viewed as a kind of measure of in what state the regionalization process is in, in a region. The development could go in both directions, i.e., towardss increasing or decreasing "regionness" (Hettne 1997).
The term network can represent either a social network of cooperation
between partners of any kind or the technical network that supports
the first one (telecom network, computer network, telematics et
cetera). A social network as well as a technical network consist
of nodes connected by links, but the nodes in the network are
not necessarily interlinked with more than a few other nodes.
Besides, each link could be one-way or two-way directed. The quantity
and quality of the content in each link could vary substantially
in the same network (see e.g. Adams 1998). Castells (1996) defines
social networks as:
Networks are open structures, able to expand without limits, integrating new nodes as long as they are able to communicate within the network, namely as long as they share the same communication codes (for example, values or performance goals). A network-based social structure is a highly dynamic, open system, susceptible to innovating without threatening its balance. Networks are appropriate instruments for a capitalist economy based on innovation, globalization, and decentralized concentration; for work, workers, and firms based on flexibility, and adaptability; for a culture of endless deconstruction and reconstruction; for a polity geared towardss the instant processing of new values and public moods; and for social organization aiming at the suppression of space and the annihilation of time. (Castells 1996, p 470-471)
The most important feature of network services is that they enables communication between human beings and between organizations independent of distance. Organizations, like for instance TNCs, are not hindered by borders between nations or political systems, since they make large use of ICT and network services (Dicken 1992, Ahrne 1994). The use of ICT implies an increase of global competition because the distance between companies in different cities (or even different countries) does not mean any good protection anymore (Goddard 1990). The need of territorial nearness is to a large extent replaced with the need of access to networks. A nodal network is featured by access in certain sites. In the telecommunication network the connections are so close that we, to a large extent, can describe it as a non-nodal network (Törnqvist 1996).
New communication systems enhance the structuring of networks and they can change the pull and push factors regarding localization of enterprises to different cities or regions (Andersson & Strömquist 1988). The prospects for regions in the periphery to compete with production and services on the global market improve if investments are made in information infrastructure as for instance advanced telecom networks (Lorentzon 1997).
ICT developments create economic opportunities, but do not determine particular economic outcomes for individual places. Instead the actual economic and spatial impacts of the new technologies will be the result of the real decisions made by a large number of economic and political actors. The role of ICT in regional development has been object of studies and discussion for several decades. No clear evidence has been found that ICT plays any large role as a factor in regional development (Kellerman 1993). Even if high quality infrastructure can be provided, they are insufficient in themselves to guarantee economic development. Among the other factors the most significant is the quality of an area's labor force, in relation to its cost. Areas possessing a favorable labor quality/cost ratio can benefit from inward investment, if the computer and telecom networks are of sufficient quality to allow these assets to be mobilized. ICT can be said to have a reasonably direct and significantly facilitating role in the case of inward investments (Gillespie et al 1995). The success of ICT in stimulating development thus depends on how well individuals, businesses and communities use network services to improve their economic prospects. The link from infrastructure to effective use of network services is the crucial point. Different types of policy initiatives have been applied in order to stimulate effective use. Gillespie et al. describe the link from infrastructure to effective use in a series of translations:
If any of these translations fail to take place satisfactorily, the assumed causal link from infrastructural investment to regional development will break down (see figure 1).
A sixth phase of competitive advantage can be achieved (temporarily) for a region that offers modern infrastructure and deployed use of applications of network services. This is strongly related to the knowledge and skills among the inhabitants.
The importance of the knowledge of the inhabitants implies that the role of ICT in regional development concerns not only economy, it also concerns the possibility of a catalytic effect on deepened democratization that the universal access of interactive communication channels, like Internet services, can bring (Rylander 1998).
Deepened democratization implies social processes where communication is the core. The definition used in this study is associated with the McBride commission's definition: Democratization is a process where (a) the individual becomes an active partner and not merely an object of communication, (b) the variation of messages that are exchanged increases, ( c) the extent and the quality of social representation or participation in communication is discussed. In the final report, that the importance of access to communication channels is made universal in order to increase participation in communication processes is emphasized (UNESCO 1980).
Internet services since the mid 1990s are increasingly being used for community and business information both in EU-countries and reforming countries in East and Central Europe. Even though Internet services on Web sites at the start, in most cases, were characterized as one-way directed information, a noticeable change has occurred; they are more often characterized as two-way communication channels with various degrees of interactivity including personal freedom of choice for the users concerning what information is collected and what, to whom and when communication is implemented.
In local and regional development programs of the local and regional administrative areas in the southeast of Sweden and northern Poland, deepened democratization is mentioned as one of the objectives. A definition of deepened democratization is not always expressed in the documents. A common description is related to increased real opportunities for the individual to participate in the political process and also to strengthen the local government in relation to the central government (Rylander 1997).
The Baltic Sea region (map: see www. ) has a population of approximately 60 million inhabitants living in countries with various cultures, social experiences, languages and religions. If the economic and institutional similarities between Scandinavian countries and Germany have a long history, the differences between these countries and the reform countries of the former East Bloc are still large even if they tend to decrease: e.g., in living standards, the traditions of political rights, democratization, communication culture, infrastructure and informatization of the economy (ITU 1995, Löwendahl 1995, Rylander 1996, Nilsson J. 1997). In order to overcome the obstacles for an integration of the economy and the institutional infrastructure, there are common goals among the reform countries: structural change aimed on qualification for membership in international organizations like the Council of Europe, OECD, CEFTA, EU and NATO. Since the iron curtain vanished, the Baltic Sea is no longer a moat with two hostile economic-political systems on each side, today the Baltic Sea is rather characterized as an interlinking sea, like it used to be before the Second World War. This is part of the reason why the Baltic Sea region is becoming more integrated regarding industry and trade, culture and social issues.
The cooperation pattern in the Baltic Sea region has changed substantially since 1989. The regionalization process in the late 1990s featured the construction of several multinational micro regions; e.g., the Barents region, Euroregion Baltic, Oresund and Pomerania. This is a result of the geopolitical transition and the European integration process which encourages cross-border cooperation between subnational regions. New geo-economic coalitions composed of actors within local administration and industry have been created in order to improve the microregions' positions in the global system. First, interregional networks have been formed and second, networks for interregional cooperation. In the cases of closer cooperation between actors in the southeast of Sweden and the north of Poland, the main driving forces are the needs of reforms together with the rapid economic growth in Poland. In a wider perspective, there are prospects connected to increased business opportunities on the emerging markets and the economic and social development coming from the increased trade and cultural and social exchange between Scandinavia and east-central Europe. (Rylander 1997). The relative importance of the trade between Sweden and Poland is gradually coming closer to the conditions before the Second World War. Only during 1997 did trade increase by 45% (SCB 1998).
Many European cities and regions are involved in international cooperative policy networks that often receive funding from the European Union. Even though cross-border interregional cooperation seems to be more an issue, the elites are interested in, however, there are indeed some attempts to mobilize broader support for establishment of multinational cross-border regions and to construct a cross-border regional identity. Projects with interregional cooperation require financing and an increase of personal contacts and information flows. The interregional cooperation activities have been supported by national governments and encouraged by certain EU-programs. As a result, so called Euroregions have been created (Church & Reid 1997).
Cross-border interregional cooperation is one of the factors of regional development in the southeast Baltic Sea region, which was started only as a result of the system transformation after 1989. The economic, cultural and social integration processes have enhanced on a slow pace and only recently in 1997-98 resulted in closer ties manifested in the establishment of the Euroregion Baltic. It consists of the southeastern region of Sweden, northern region of Poland, Kaliningrad (part of Russia), Klaipeda in Lithuania, Liepaja in Latvia and the Island of Bornholm (Denmark). Networks have been established between local and regional actors in order to enhance the interlinking with the further development of land transportation and ferry lines and participation in the process towardss enhanced regionness. To individuals the greatest impact the integration has had, so far, is increased opportunities for tourism, trade, cultural and social exchange with individuals and organizations across the Baltic Sea; e.g., business partnership, travel, sport tournaments, music festivals, art exhibitions and ship races.
The development of infrastructure and applications of ICT is in various degrees regarded by the local and regional administrations as a tool for economic development and for deepened democratization. Local and regional administrations and firms cooperate in organizations and networks in order to stimulate trade, attract investments, support cultural and social exchange, and in that way strengthening the links between local settlements that are interested in participation in the interregional cooperation. The purpose of the establishment of new links and coordinated actions is to increase the economic, cultural and social integration of the Baltic Sea region, i.e., regionalization. As a support for economic, cultural, environmental and social cooperation projects, several telematics projects based on Internet and Web technology have been created by coalitions of cooperation partners within the scope of the entire Baltic Sea region. Three of them are:
All three of these telematics projects are based on the concepts of networking and self-building. They were recently established (during 1997-98) and it is therefore too early to say to what extent these three telematics projects are contributing to the regionalization of the Baltic Sea region more than underpinning and possibly strengthening already existing cooperation networks. Still there are reasons to make the assumption that new contacts also are being made thanks to these Internet services. Meanwhile, we will look at the two subregions as case studies.
The local and regional actors in Blekinge strongly support the development of ICTs as well as the spread and the deployed usage of Internet services among firms, households and schools. About 60 telematics projects have been initiated by different coalitions of local and regional actors, where some have national and/or international participation. All of them are still operational, either operated by the initiators or being taken over by the users (Landén 1997, Rylander 1998). Funds have been available both from the central government and the European Union since the main part of the region is entitled to financial support from the structural funds. The purpose of the ongoing information society initiatives is (within the framework of the EU's Regional Information Society Initiative Program) to develop Blekinge into one of 22 models for other regions in Europe. The objective with the telematics projects in each pilot region is to demonstrate how knowledge about network services and their usage in society can contribute to regional development. The large variation among represented activities makes a full scale project possible. The actions consist of development and applications in a wide span of activities, represented in six subprograms: R&D and Regional Development, Infrastructure, Rural Development, SMEs, Health, Community. The Community subprogram deals with four areas: school, culture, library, democracy and community service. The libraries function as nodes in the local infrastructure for information diffusion, administrating thoroughly developed information services to citizens, enterprises and education. A network has been created that gives enterprises the possibility of easily communicating with each other, finding useable information, connecting to new customers and/or suppliers thus enabling them to do business on the network. All telematics projects (except a few early projects) are based on Internet and Web technology. Telecommunications and Internet services are in international comparance well-developed in Blekinge and basic know-how, and experiences from the results of the local information society initiative that started in Ronneby Municipality in 1993 are available for implementation and demonstration (Rylander 1997). There were 77 Internet service providers in Sweden by the end of 1997, 15 of them were offering services in Blekinge. That means that there were 10,000 people on each ISP with services available. This implies a rather stark competition. Approximately 15 percent of the population in Sweden use Internet services regularly (Österman & Timander 1997).
The situation in Blekinge is advanced and the series of translations between infrastructure investments and regional development have reached actual adoption and effective usage. Even though inward investments by Swedish and transnational corporations have been made, they have mainly been directed into the two company cooperation networks Soft Center and Telecom City. It is not clear if Blekinge has achieved a competitive advantage because the economy is stagnant in all fields except software technology and telecommunication.
In the following text one of the very first and one of the newest telematics projects in the region are briefly introduced.
The situation in Gdansk is depending on an economy that is still in transition due to the shift from centralized plan economy to market economy (privatization and new laws). The infrastructure is still insufficient, even if an overlay network was constructed for foreign investors in the early 1990s and TP SA, the national telco, has made efforts to extend the telecom network during 1990-1997 in order to meet growing demands from Polish companies, institutions and households. Improvements in local democracy have strengthened the local administration as well as local industry. For example, a network of regional development agencies has been established in order to support small firms. The main problem is financing. No funds are available from the central government but funds from EU have been used in computerization and education projects. So far, no comprehensive information society initiative program is on the local and regional authorities' agenda. A growing consciousness about the need for ICT and Internet services to strengthen the region's competitiveness and linkage to the information space is noticeable (Jankowski 1996). In Poland there were 135 Internet service providers by the end of 1997. Seventeen of them offered services in Gdansk, which means that 120,000 people were on each Internet service provider. Most of the ISPs entered the market in 1997. Approximately one percent of Poland's population uses Internet services regularly (Internet listopad 1997). The availability of Internet services among potential user groups like students, SMEs and households is still low compared to the situation in other OECD-countries. There is a rather large number of Internet suppliers but only two operators due to still limited competition on the telecom market.
Until 1997 it was very difficult to sell Internet services in Gdansk. Even companies with large resources were afraid to start to use the technology because it was new and they did not know what they could use the services for (Rejmus 1997). At the end of 1997, the companies started to demand Internet services because the information about the appropriate services and applications had diffused as well as the awareness by potential users of what is on offer and what is possible had grown. The largest obstacle for individuals to using Internet services is the high costs of computers in relation to income and the still poor quality of the telecom network in most areas. Only a few telematics projects are taking place in Gdansk. The focus is on computerization of the administration and the industry. Actual adoption and effective usage in accordance by the series of translations have not yet been achieved in Gdansk. They are yet to be realized (Rylander 1998). Web sites with high quality content have been created during 1997-98. Two examples are:
The regionalization process in this paper is understood not only as regional integration processes but also as a local/regional response to globalization. However, it forms a problematic paradox. On the one hand, there is interregional cooperation between geographically closely located cities/regions to move towardss geo-economic coalitions that might result in a more integrated geo-social and geo-cultural entity with a growing common identity among the inhabitants. In rare cases it leads to territorial regionalization (see figure 2). The role of Internet services in this context is related to the concept of "imagined communities" (Anderson 1983). In all societies that exceed that small group of people, that makes it possible for each member to know all the other members; the community is imagined in each member's mind. The imagined community is made possible through consumption of the contents of newspapers, books, radio and television (Anderson 1983), and today also through the content on Web sites and Internet services.
On the other hand, there are cities and regions with large geographical distances between them that are involved in close cooperation. Actors in those regions form cooperation networks with links of different strengths and duration. These networking regions express another kind of regionalization that might be called "archipelago regionalization." There are no doubts that ICTs, including Internet services, play a role in keeping those actors and regions to become interlinked. If the cooperation networks to some extent lead to a decreasing mental distance between the actors, the result might be a process towardss cultural integration. Within the framework of multiple identities, it could also result in an inter-regional identity. It would then most likely be characterized as an imagined global citizenship.
Regional and local actors hope that innovations within the field of ICT will result in new products and services able to help boost the regional economy. To some extent this is already the case in some places. The role of Internet services in regional development is in their perspective a matter of a growing group of innovations and applications that can be part of the solution in order to (re)gain competitiveness. But Internet services has also another distinguishing feature as communication channels that help spread information about themselves and other innovations. In that way they support innovation processes as well as diffusion processes. This makes Internet services essential for learning individuals living their lives in learning regions and acting in a learning economy. It is becoming more and more important as a tool to link people together, twin local settlements, underpin cooperation networks and support businesses. Internet services are therefore playing a role in the further regionalization of the Baltic Sea region, but no evidence has so far been found that points out that Internet services in themselves have more than at best a reasonable catalytic effect on the economic, social and cultural integration processes.
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