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44th Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Regions and Fiscal Federalism", 25th - 29th August 2004, Porto, Portugal
The radical role of information and communication technology (ICT) is one of the most visible topic in the media today and seems to grow from day to day, as well as telecommunications are gradually becoming the central infrastructure tying together our society. The advent of these technologies during the past decades, and their widespread use, is radically transforming the dynamics of communication and our understanding of spatial relationships (by the reduce of distances and the increase of accessibility to information and new services). If there are many studies, attempting to show how city management and regional development policies can creatively address the complex linkages between ICT and urban and regional prosperity (influencing the objective of increasing urban living conditions, combating inwardness, promoting employment and economic competitiveness and supporting social integration policies), there are also many authors arguing that electronic communications reinforce existing patterns of physical communication rather than create new patterns. These suppositions are usually theoretical discussions, that needs to be rigorously tested with empirical analysis and comparative perspectives. The main objective of this paper is precisely to present a detailed study about Portugal, with the purpose of questioning the decrease of spatial disparities due to the potential influence of ICT’s. This research is mostly based on new spatial statistics, collected, mapped and analysed in order to understand the diffusion process of the most sophisticated, diverse and capable telecommunication infrastructures, and consequently verify the plasticity of space throughout Portugal, and the ways it has been stretched or compressed. We will be focusing the globally-interconnected set of computer networks, known as ‘The Internet’, which is widely used by millions of individuals, firms and institutions every day, as a way to get into an invisible domain, popularly known as cyberspace, in order to seek information, marketing new services and products, and as means of communication within and between organizations. We believe that this invisible territories of the cyberspace do have a geography and, in an attempt to reveal its topography, we should analyse the spatial patterns of the ownership of Internet space. Despite the rapid growth of Internet in recent years, and the gradually recognition of its implications, there is a lack of knowledge about its geographic diffusion and its attendant implication for regional urban development. Specially in what concerns to its effective role to generate substantial adjustments on traditional portuguese regional dichotomies, or instead, if it is an unexpected contribute to reinforce territorial disintegration tendencies. For the empirical research will try to find links between cyberspace and the portuguese physical geography. In our opinion a good way to achieve this goal is discovering which and where are located the portuguese entities that recognize the importance to distribute globally information, about their activities and services, through the use of the Internet. For that we will explore the compulsory registration of all .pt domain names on one single institution –Foundation for National Scientific Computing- (FNSC), which performs all the registration services for the geographical .pt domain.
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