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43rd Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Peripheries, Centres, and Spatial Development in the New Europe", 27th - 30th August 2003, Jyväskylä, Finland
Since the political, social and economic transition was launched in the late eighties, regional differences, measurable on various spatial scales, have considerably increased within Hungary. Several studies carried out since the early 1990s indicate the existence of a capital-countryside dichotomy, a ?west-east slope,? as well as a more finely patterned divergence between dynamically developing, and stagnating or receding micro-regions regarding various socio-economic indicators. During especially the early transition years, foreign direct investment was a significant factor selectively revitalising certain regions, and among the ?transitional? crisis factors, the growth of unemployment had a considerable but a spatially uneven impact on Hungarian society. Meanwhile, a new group of elements has become increasingly noticeable which are assumed to influence and rearrange spatial patterns of the development of Hungarian economy and society. These are in connection with the phenomenon that is generally called ?informational development? (see e.g. Castells) or referred to as knowledge-based societies. Various international organisations have made many attempts and much effort to benchmark the development of information society on different territorial scales, and most recently on the sub-national scale (e.g. EU, UN). Also, such ventures are being currently undertaken by Hungarian regional scientists and researchers in other fields, as well as by planning institutions. The universal question is: what indicators are available and can be used to measure informational development on the sub-national level? In case of Hungary, it is important to see for example, whether the diffusion of different information and communication technologies can be regarded as a new factor in spatial divergence. There are other components of informational, knowledge-based development, which are even more difficult to track on a regional scale, such as the content and nature of Internet usage, or the openness and preparedness of the society enabling it to take full advantage of the new technologies. Learning about the spatial variation in these factors would significantly contribute to our understanding of why and to what extent regional inequalities in information society development resemble the already existing spatial patterns in economic growth. How do the new (?informational?) and old (?transitional?) factors correlate in space? From the mid-nineties, governments started drawing up a wide national strategy for Hungary aiming at its entering the information and knowledge-based society simultaneously with its EU accession. The liberalisation of the telecommunications market has taken a couple of years, and the rise in competition has just very recently had an impact on infrastructure provision and price levels. The diffusion of the relevant technologies, and especially, of Internet service provision and use through narrow- and broadband applications, is spatially uneven, more or less following existing disparities in economic growth and living standards. The paper gives empirical answers to the questions above representing regional inequalities in the emerging information society in Hungary. Keywords: information society, spatial diffusion of ICT, regional differences in Hungary
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