and telecommunications technologies are shaping the form and function
of cities and metropolitan areas in the United States in ways
that are far more complex and subtle than the automobile and interstate
did in an earlier era. Public policies for urban development have
largely ignored the pervasive influence of information technology
in cities and their surrounding regions, while continuing to emphasize
"brick and mortar" approaches to solve the physical and economic
problems of urban centers (Moss, 1997).
proposal is based on a simple argument: the deployment of new
information and telecommunications systems is altering the activities
that occur in the key elements of urban society-such as the home,
the office, the automobile-and will ultimately affect the way
in which citizens participate in government and the public sector
provides services in urban areas. Innovations in telecommunications
are blurring the separation between the home and the workplace,
radically changing office location and design, and transforming
transportation systems into information-intensive infrastructures.
of urban growth and development have yet to incorporate adequately
the role of information technology in the locational decisions
of people and jobs. Remarkably little attention has been given
to the influence of information and telecommunications technologies
on the location of economic activity and the relationship of face-to-face
interaction to electronic communications in the economic, physical,
and social structure of cities. To date, we have invested far
more resources to study the influence of transportation systems
on urban development than to understand the relationship of information
technologies to urban development.
project is designed to improve our capacity to identify and measure
the technological, organizational, and economic systems that affect
a city's capacity to process, generate, and distribute information.
This requires an understanding of the technological infrastructure
used to move information, the physical setting in which information
is created, organized and handled, and the organizational and
economic structures that facilitate the location of information-based
information city is increasingly differentiated from previous
urban forms by its extensive and interconnected infrastructure
networks for moving information. The diffusion of information
technologies in large cities and regions drastically increases
the complexity of cities, by increasing the number and type of
interactions among individuals, firms, technical systems, and
the external environment. Despite the rapid integration of information
and telecommunications into urban activities and infrastructures,
current theory and policies fail to explicitly consider the role
of information technology in urban growth and development.
reason why information and telecommunications are so rarely included
in urban research is that the data are not easily available. Unlike
demographic or housing data, there is no public agency that regularly
collects and publishes information on the telecommunications systems
and information infrastructure in households or the information-related
activities of individuals. And unlike the nation's transportation
infrastructure, much of which has been financed by public expenditure,
there are no local, state or federal agencies with responsibility
for the planning, construction, and management of communications
systems. While there is considerable information available about
telecommunications infrastructure and investment, as well as telephone
traffic at the state and national and international level, obtaining
information about urban and regional communications systems requires
ingenuity, time, and resources.
Change and Urban Development
factor that has contributed to our limited understanding of information
and telecommunications systems is the speed with which new technology
has altered basic elements of urban activity: the workplace, the
home, the automobile, and other infrastructure. Existing data
collection systems still emphasize how much physical space is
in a dwelling or office building, rather than how much information
flows in, through, and out of such structures.
as the office environment has been influenced by telecommunications
technology, the home is undergoing a fundamental change in its
function and design as a result of new telecommunication technologies.
For much of the last 100 years, the home has primarily functioned
as a site for social-emotional functions of the family, explicitly
designed as a refuge from the workplace. A relic of Victorian-era
philosophers and urban designers, this separation of home and
work is disappearing as new information technologies are becoming
widely available. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (1998),
more than 21 million Americans did some part of their primary
job at home in 1997, and more than half of those used a computer
for their home-based work.
information is brought into the home through satellite dishes,
coaxial cable, modems attached to phone lines, as well as through
wireless technologies. Home contractors now treat telecommunications
infrastructure as the equivalent of "electronic plumbing," and
new homes are being equipped with high capacity phone conduits
to accommodate information services. It is conceivable that in
the next century, a home's value will be judged by the speed of
its dial-up connections, rather than conventional measures such
as the number of bedrooms or bathrooms.
and telecommunications technology are also affecting transportation
patterns, the geographic scale of metropolitan regions, and the
infrastructure within a metropolitan region. Infrastructure, other
than information technology and telecommunications, consists of
transportation, water, waste disposal, and energy and supports
the structure of cities and regions. The influence of information
and telecommunications technologies on these infrastructures is
critical to the planning of cities and regions since the use of
information technology in infrastructure systems is growing rapidly
is necessary to understand how new information and telecommunications
technology can improve infrastructure systems and the urban environment.
How are new information and telecommunications technologies being
used in infrastructure systems, and do they effect performance
and flexibility? How does environmental and infrastructure policy
promote the use of information and telecommunications technology
in ways that improve infrastructure performance and flexibility?
With the greater use of information and telecommunications technologies,
are infrastructure systems becoming more flexible? If so, how
will that affect the physical form of urban areas?
in information technologies are also influencing the delivery
of public services and the capacity of low-income groups that
are concentrated in central cities to participate in information-intensive
industries and to foster local community development. An increasing
number of state, local and federal agencies are delivering their
services electronically, thus imposing a new requirement-access
to a telephone or computer-for participants in public programs.
Residential telephone penetration in low-income urban areas is
far lower than in middle- and upper-income communities. Public
policies are being implemented at the state and federal level
to encourage the wiring of schools and libraries for access to
the Internet. But it is essential to analyze the way in which
central city and suburban households differ with regard to access
to and use of information technology and the implications for
urban economic development.