Paper to be presented at the conference on Spatial Inequalities,

Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science

University of California at Santa Barbara

13-14 November 2000


Hugo Priemus

Managing Director OTB Research Institute for

Housing, Urban and Mobility Studies,

Delft University of Technology

Thijsseweg 11, 2629 JA Delft




1.    Introduction


Dutch national government and local governments have laid down in regional implementation agreements that between 1995 and 2005 some 600,000 dwellings will be constructed on so-called VINEX locations in or close to the cities. Business parks will also be developed. Housing construction and setting out business parks are perceived to be separate tasks: there are different actors, working on different locations, with different purposes. All this development is completely in the spirit of the Chartes d’Athènes of the CIAM that marked its 50th anniversary in 1998.

The restructuring task in Dutch cities is also huge. It involves mostly post-war residential districts with a high proportion of social rented dwellings in middle and high rise buildings; these districts are ripe for redifferentiation and improved urban design. They are usually characterized by a modest level of services and facilities and shopping provision that flourishes with moderate success. Business activity and employment are hardly to be found in these districts: for those you must search on the business parks outside the city, or in the inner city. The question is of this monofunctional approach of spatial planning is appropriate in light of the changing conditions, and especially in an informational world, with an intensive use of ICT.


Information & Communication Technology (ICT) is the collective term for all the technologies used in communication and information. So perceived, ICT includes the newspaper, radio, television, and telephone. In practice the term usually refers to those techniques which are interactive, where communication and information are intertwined, and use is made of chips and computers. Communication can run via personal computers (internet), via interactive digital television (iDTV), and via Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) telephones. These modern ICT applications are currently soaring and will doubtless have consequences for people’s time space budgeting (Louw, 1991). Computers and telephones can be linked to a person (laptop, cellular, telephone), or used in a specifically designed work location, or can be found in the home.


It is generally supposed that the ICT explosion will have large spatial impacts, in a direct and indirect way, on human behavior. In this contribution we will specify and underpin expectations about the character and spatial implications of these changes. We will indicate the impacts on time space budgets of individuals and households, and the spatial implications for dwellings, neighbourhoods, cities and the use of traffic infrastructures.

The exploration has been based on literature sources and common sense, but the observations have no more significance than pictures conjured up by tea leaves lying at the bottom of an empty cup. Setting up a strategic research agenda centred around this theme of the influence of ICT application on the home, the residential environment, the location of business the city and the use of infrastructure would seem to be extremely worthwhile.

Section 2 deals with the spatial relation between home and work over time. The vision of Toffler on the future of the home-centred society is explained in section 3. In section 4 we present some empirical evidence on the development of ICT and internet use in the Netherlands.


In section 5 we pay attention to the possible differences between ICT-users and ICT-non users and deal with the question whether a new divide between connected and disconnected people may be expected. Section 6 deals with the impacts of ICT on time space budgets of individuals and households and on the increasing individualisation. The impacts on the use of the dwelling form the theme of section 7, followed by the spatial impacts on neighbourhood level. Section 8 seeks to determine the impacts of the ICT revolution on urban form and the relation between central city and suburb. In section 9 we try to predict the impacts on the use of traffic infrastructures. Finally, in section 10 we present some conclusions.



2.    Home and work: separation in time and space


In the past we knew how to keep home and work entirely separate - not only in space, but also in time. For decades we had a razor-sharp distinction between working hours and free time. The opening hours of shops and offices with a service counter function harmonized with that. Holidays were not spread out: either we were all at work, or we were all free.

This sharp geographic and temporal distinction between home and work is not something inherent in the human existence, but is a typical consequence of the industrial age. If business activity and employment predominate in industry it is sensible to separate the clean, fresh air of the residential areas from the noisy work environment with its unsavoury emissions. And if it only makes sense to work when the machine park is in operation, with all the wheels in the production apparatus turning, it is logical that working hours should be sharply separated from free time.

In the pre-industrial age this was quite different. The farm is typically the place where work and living are intertwined. That is also true for the shopkeeper’s family living over the shop, or the tradesman whose house and work are bound strongly together in time and space. The labour market and the housing market used to be integrated in a distinctive manner (Vance, 1966). Only since the nineteenth century has a more or less independent housing market marked itself off and now we take it for granted that this is how it should be. But, in the information age this is very much the question.



3.    The vision of Toffler


The idea that ICT applications could have radical consequence for our way of life and our homes is not new. Twenty years ago Toffler announced that the new computer assisted production techniques would lead to a new function for the home. Toffler asserts (1980: 204): ‘…. we are about to revolutionize our homes as well’.

Toffler describes how at the time of the industrialization (The Second Wave) millions of jobs were moved from the home to the factory and the office. The third wave will bring these jobs back from factory and office to the home. The third wave marks the transition from an industrial society to a knowledge based society. The new production techniques bring ‘…a return to cottage industry on a new, higher, electronic basis, and with it a new emphasis on the home as the centre of society’ (Toffler, 1980: 204). That marks not so much a new formula, but the return to honour of a pattern that served humankind for roughly 10,000 years and was only broken relatively briefly for three centuries before and after the industrialization (see: Vance, 1966). But now another sort of production is involved: knowledge and services are pivotal; goods come in the second place.

Toffler concluded in 1980 that many people were already carrying out their work wholly, or to a large extent at home: sales representatives, architects, designers, consultants, psychologists, therapists, music teachers, insurance agents, researchers, and so forth. These groups form the advance guard in the transformation from centralized work to the ‘electronic cottage’. Toffler is not blind to the barriers which will be encountered here, such as the need for face-to-face contacts with colleagues, but nevertheless he sees an irresistible shift from office and factory to the home, partly as a result of the rapidly changing trade-off between transport and telecommunication. Commuting is becoming more expensive in time and money, while telecommunication is becoming cheaper and faster. The transport of information is much more simple and environmentally friendly than the transport of people or goods.

Toffler expects households to function increasingly not just as a living unit, but also as a work unit. Toffler states (1980: 213): ‘… it is worth observing that one of the things that has bound families tightly together through history has been shared work.’ Toffler anticipates increasing pressure from citizens demanding that if work can be done at home, then it ought to be done at home. Toffler (1980: 214 217) foresees the ‘home-centred society’ taking shape around the ‘electronic society’, with a number of striking consequences:

1.       Community impact: As more people work at home, greater stability of communities will accrue. Home to work mobility will decline.

2.       Environmental impact: Working at home facilitates the decentralization of energy production (sun, wind) and reduces the emissions from commuter traffic.

3.       Economic impact: Shifts will occur in the production structure. Oil companies, the auto industry, the paper sector and the commercial real estate sector will fall back. The computer, communication, services and knowledge sectors will see their share grow. Toffler expects a growth of small businesses, with entrepreneurs who themselves own the means of production and only offer their services as independent producers, or in small groups.

4.       Psychological impact: People will increasingly have to deal with two worlds: the real world and the virtual world. Toffler expects that many people will work part-time at home and part-time somewhere else.

All in all Toffler expects changes in the ‘techno-sphere’ to lead to a revolution in the ‘info-sphere’ and the ‘socio-sphere’.



4.    The ICT revolution since Toffler


Recently in the Netherlands there has been considerable attention paid to the development of E-commerce: the sale of products on the internet. ABN-AMRO (1999) describes E-commerce as the exchange of information, services, products, and payments via an electronic medium. The electronic media include not only the internet, but also the digital telephone network and cable television.

An important distinction within E-business is drawn between Business to Consumer (B2C) and Business to Business (B2B). B2C relates to sales by businesses to consumers via the electronic highway. B2B refers to transactions between companies via the digital network, including internet, in the support and implementation of business transactions (Stec Group, 2000: 11).



[Figure 1 about here]



At the end of 1998, ninety million people in the world were connected to the internet. This number is rising fast. In 1998, six out of ten households in the Netherlands had a computer. The higher the income, the greater the computer ownership.

Figure 1 shows the rapid growth in the use of the internet in the Netherlands since 1995. In 1997, 10% of the Dutch had internet access. In 2000, this share has risen to 29%. A share of 55% is expected for 2005.


Forrester Research (2000) expects that in 2005 more Europeans will go on-line via the television set than via the computer. Booz, Allen & Hamilton (2000) expect 80 million mobile telephones in Europe to be equipped with internet in 2003, partly through the development of ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line).

Netherlands households use internet mostly for e-mail (85%), looking for information (62%), surfing (61%), downloading (57%), and reading the news (50%). For business purposes the Dutch use the internet for e-mail (75%), information gathering (62%), downloading(39%), reading the news (38%) and searching for information (32%) (Pro Active International 2000, Stec Groep, 2000: 13).

Figure 2 shows how the on-line sale of products has grown in the Netherlands since 1997.



[Figure 2 about here]



This growth is closely linked with the growth of the number of active internetters. In June 1999 this group of active internetters amounted to 1.5 million people, of whom 400,000 were on-line shoppers.

An important target group of E-business directed to the consumer (B2C), is consumers with lots of money and little time. The Woongemak [Housing Comfort] system introduced into 700 dwellings on the Java island in Amsterdam is directed particularly on to this group. The heart of this system is the Bode, a dedicated piece of equipment with a television screen and a printer that can be linked to a camera at the front door. The participating residents order their shopping and services via the television screen. In the near future thousands of dwellings in fifteen cities will be provided with Woongemak. The real estate investor Vesteda has acquired a majority interest in the company (Stec Groep, 2000: 61).

Most of the Dutch who have made purchases via the internet are young, male, and well educated. According to Blauw New Media Consulting, in 1999 Netherlands consumers spent 147 million euros via the internet. In particular hardware and software is sold via the internet: this makes up 33% of all expenditure via the internet. Travel follows with 25%; entertainment (books, CDs) form 20% of the spending via the internet (Stec Groep, 2000: 14).

Forrester Research (2000) expects the business carried out in Europe via the internet to grow by an average of 98% per year for the next five years. The on-line sales would then rise from 2.9 billion euros in 1999 to 175 billion euros in 2005, which would be 7% of the total retail trade. Experts anticipate this share reaching 15% in the long term.



5.       Towards a new divide between ICT-users and non-users?(1)


Van Dijk et al. (2000) argue that the spread of ICT innovations is proceeding more rapidly in some sections of the population than others. Their investigation addresses the following questions:

Question 1:   How widespread are new forms of information and communication technology (ICT) in Dutch households, and how much use is made of them?

Question 2:   To what extent do different sections of the population have access to new ICT facilities and how much use do they make of them?

Question 3:   How can the differences in possession and use of ICT products between different sections of the population be explained?

Question 4:   To what extent does differing use of new forms of information technology lead to (new forms of) social inequality?






(1)  This section draws heavily on Van Dijk et al. (2000: 213-219).

Data on historical trends in ICT-use were drawn from the Time Budget Surveys, which have been conducted every five years since 1975. Recent and more detailed data were drawn from the Use of New Communication Resources survey which was carried out in 1998.


Van Dijk et al. (2000) describe the spread and distribution of ICT products on the basis of the following classification: 1. television and video; 2. personnel communication equipment; 3. electronic payment; 4. personal computers; and 5. Internet and Email.

The following groups appear to fall behind in the information society:

-         people in low-income households;

-         (single) women;

-         over-65s;

-         people with a lower (secondary) education level;

-         the unemployed.


Multivariable analysis showed that the factor household income is of primary importance for variation in access to ICT. The information society is above all a possession society, not a knowledge society. The income differentials are, it should be pointed out, concentrated around the possession of a given facility: once someone has access to a piece of hardware or functionality, their income has little further effect on the actual use of that hardware or functionality. The differences in use of facilities already acquired, and the extent to which this use correlates with the background variables considered, are however markedly smaller than the differences in terms of acquisition and possession.


Where there are systematic differences in use, one striking conclusion is how strongly these differences are determined by the sex of the respondent. Women across the board have less access to ICT than (their) men, and also make less use of it. The elderly (in particular the over-65s) are also at a systematic disadvantage when it comes to the use of new ICT facilities. Educational differences come only fourth in the list of important determinants of ICT inequality. Finally, evidence was found here and there that unemployed and disabled people also sometimes participate less in ICT usage. Given the importance of contracts at work, this is not very surprising.


Van Dijk et al. (2000) conclude that in 2001 differences in the possession of existing ICT products (cordless telephones, mobile telephones, fax and pc) between different age groups will increase under the influence of the rapid growth in possession among 18-34 year-olds. No change is expected in this period in the differences in possession between men and women, between different educational groups and between different income groups. In the longer term, it is unavoidable in the light of increasing diffusion of the products referred to that these differences will diminish. However, it is likely that several groups, even if they have equal access to ICT products, will make differing use of them in the future. Groups which are already overrepresented among the possessors also make more use of the facilities in question. These usage differences are however smaller than the differences in possession. Nonetheless, this finding suggests that differences in usage (frequencies and above all type of usage) remain once the ICT products described have become very widely distributed. New inequalities are not expected to arise here. The literate elite will gradually change into an elite which is capable of handling new technologies.

Old inequalities will manifest themselves once again when new products come onto the market in the future. The established elite will look for new ways to set itself apart. New products will then spread throughout the market in accordance with the trickle-down principle: the higher status groups – in particular the higher income groups – will purchase these products first, and will be followed by the lower status groups. One again, it is likely that people with little financial capacity will draw no benefit from the new opportunities, or else will do so relatively late.


Van Dijk et al. (2000) do not see a new divide. The first argument against such a divide is that even within the disadvantaged groups, the possession of ICT products is not extremely low. Secondly, the existence of a divide assumes a gulf which is difficult to bridge. Although the different rates of possession of ICT products in the different sections of the population remain reasonably constant over time, this does not mean that the chance of ownership for separate individuals is fixed; someone who today is a “non-possessor”may not be tomorrow. If the spread of existing ICT products continues under the influence of falling prices and increasing user-friendliness, the pc and mobile telephone will eventually become everyday possessions. Thirdly, the significance of the possession of modern ICT facilities for acquiring other scarce goods should not be overestimated. The labour market needs more and more people who are au fait with computers; a person with computer skills has an advantage in this situation. But a substantial proportion of jobs still do not require computer training. And a large section of the population, such as retired people, have no labour market ambitions. For this group, the possession or lack of computer skills is therefore not instrumental for the generation of income.

In virtually every case there are accessible alternatives for people who do not possess modern ICT facilities. Information can also be obtained via traditional media, and there are alternatives for communication with other people if a person has no e-mail or mobile telephone.


Although there are many uncertainties we do not support the view of Van Dijk et al. (2000). We expect that after a general growth in ICT use there will be a strong differentiation between ICT users (with pc, GSM and interactive TV) and non-users: the connected versus the disconnected people. Being connected will more and more be the norm. Those who are disconnected will miss information or receive strategic information too late. They will face problems in finding jobs, a home, cheap offers of shops and so on. The divide between connected people and disconnected people will supposedly be related to the traditional sources of inequality like income, education and ethnicity. In the near future we expect that age will play an important role, making a distinction between the young connected generation and the older disconnected generation.



6.       Impacts on time space budgets of persons and households


In the future people will live more in two worlds in the same time: the real world and the virtual world. Homes and offices will be the main nodes between both worlds. Living in two worlds at the same time will have an increasing impact on the time space budgets of individuals and households. We expect a growing fragmentation of behaviour in time and space. People will live, work and recreate in a growing assortment of places in time slots of a decreasing size. We are moving towards a zap culture.

If the ICT-revolution continues and if resources such as the telephone, PC and television become more individualized, increased individualization within the household is to be expected. There will be increasing pressure on the almost tautological equation: number of households = number of (inhabited) dwellings. The home is taking on more productive tasks: teleworking, telebanking, telelearning, teleshopping, and telemeetings. Some of these functions still fit into the domain of home consumption (such as telebanking and teleshopping), while others are associated primarily with the productive side of society (teleworking, telemeetings). The question still applies: Do people work at home, or do they live in the office? (Vlek, 1986: 41).

Increasingly, both consumer and productive aspects will be recognized in particular functions (for example, telelearning). The home is being transformed into a centre of consumption and production. That is also increasingly the case for the car and public transport over a longer distance. On the one hand the consumer function of the home will lose ground to the production function, while on the other hand households, if they have the financial resources, will increasingly want to have more residential locations at their disposal. The digital distinction between place of residence and place of work will lapse. The distinction between place of residence and holiday home will also become blurred. Households no longer just have a house from which they commute to some fixed workplace, but move increasingly often between a collective place of work (per household member), the conference centre (as quasi workplace), the home as home-workplace, and the second home/place of recreation where the work function is usually less strongly present. An increasing spatial fragmentation arises in the behaviour of households and individuals in which the demarcation between working hours and free time becomes more pluriform and diffuse. Physical mobility increases further, but the criss-cross movements will take the upper hand so that the travel peaks will be flattened out. The loss of time, the cost and the irritation of sitting in a traffic jam forms in this dynamic a tremendous push factor; the increasing opportunities and internalization of ICT-applications by households and companies form the most important pull factor.

The spatial and temporal demarcation of living and working is becoming more pluriform and dynamic. The productive activities increase in and around the home, while companies direct their human resource management to the strengthening of the bond holding the personnel to the company through the introduction of consumer activities “in the time and at the expense of the boss”: birthday celebrations, excursions, incentive journeys, survival expeditions, cultural events, fitness facilities.



7.       Impacts on the home


It is generally expected that the ICT-revolution will have strong impacts on the use of the home. Following Toffler it is expected that the home will become the place for work more and more.

It is clear that the home is not only the place for consumption and sleep, but work is done there too. In the traditional sense it is the housewife who works in the house: cleaning, washing, drying, cooking, sewing, ironing and bringing up children: unpaid activities which add value and as a result are productive. In modern families, in which the two income families predominate, these productive tasks are shared between the both partners, although the man’s share usually still remains a modest one. The work function in the home can be seen more clearly if the household employs household help, paid cash in hand and often part-time, for their (usually her) activities (like cleaning and childcare).

The work functions which have been considered to this point are not new and have in general been provided for by the developer or the architect. But traditional house designs are only geared to these activities to a modest extent. However, everything points to the fact that it is no longer just these household activities that are concerned. The razor-sharp distinction between work time and free time is tearing us apart. The strict division leads to traffic-jams in the morning and at the end of the afternoon. It restricts the earning capacity of shopkeepers, proprietors of inns and restaurants and other service providers who have to close when their customers are free. No wonder that in the Netherlands the Shopping Hours Act is up for review and that working hours in offices and firms is becoming increasingly more flexible. According to some we are on the way to the 24 hour economy, but as a general picture of social life in the Netherlands that is somewhat exaggerated. Transport is becoming increasingly more difficult through the congestion, the prospect of pay as you drive and the unrelenting parking problems. At the same time the information technology revolution is developing at an enormous pace, generating more and more substitutions for actual transport. Thanks to the personal computer, the fax and the cellular phone we are always within reach, we can carry out our knowledge-intensive work wherever we wish and can put our contributions into the system anywhere. Our equipment is situated increasingly less often at a fixed place (machine, documentation, telephone), but is attached to the person instead (PC, cellular phone). As a result productive activities can be fragmented in time and space with increasing ease. Employers are increasingly setting up their offices as buildings with flexible work places. The next step is for the employees to carry out their work for one or more days per week at workspaces set up in or near their homes (Vlek, 1986; 1987). Many cars are beginning to take on the form and function of a workspace. The same is true for hotels and airport lounges; only public transport does not accommodate the transformation very well until now.


Homework is defined in various ways; that largely accounts for the substantial differences in numbers of homeworkers estimated or registered. Homework always involves carrying out work at home, at a distance from the work organization. De Vries (1998) lists four items which can determine the definition:

-         the place where work is carried out: the home, or some location which is different from the employer’s establishment;

-         the legal status of the homeworker: employee, freelancer, or independent;

-         the nature of the activities: traditional or telehomework;

-         the quantity of working time spent on work at home: duration and frequency.

The information concerning the current number of teleworkers in the Netherlands is conflicting. The Stichting Telewerk Forum speaks of 600,000 teleworkers (10 to 14% of the working population). Teleworkers comprise 250,000 homeworkers and 350,000 mobile workers. Homeworkers are people who used to work the whole week at the office, but currently spend a minimum of one day per week working at home. Mobile workers are people who used to work ‘on the road’ and now organize their work activities for a substantial part of the time from home (such as service engineers) (Stec Groep, 2000: 56). In the middle of 1998 in the United States, 12.9% of the working population were teleworkers (European Commission, 1999).

Felstead & Jewson (1997) distinguish three categories of homework:

-         work conducted at home (homeworker);

-         work conducted from home (house as work base; compare the mobile worker);

-         work conducted in the same grounds and buildings as the home (not in the house, but within the ‘domestic living area’), such as a shopkeeper who lives over the shop.

Figure 3 gives a picture of the share of teleworkers per sector.



[Figure 3 about here]



Certain sectors, such as hotels and restaurants, care and construction, do not lend themselves to teleworking. The share of teleworkers in commercial service provision is high.

On the basis of E-business developments, the Stec Groep (2000: 53) expects in the long term an increase in the demand for residential space in an attractive residential environment. The Stec Groep does not specify this concept further. Such a residential environment can be found just as well in a big city as on a suburban or rural location. The distance between home and work is already increasing and in future it will become even greater. Thanks to E-business, the decision of where to live will be determined more than is now the case by the desire to live in an attractive residential environment than by the work location, according to the Stec Groep (2000: 53). The Stec Groep (2000: 55) is of the opinion that the number of teleworkers will grow strongly in future and as a result the South and East Netherlands will score higher as residential areas. Moving house will occur over larger distances which will often cross the boundaries of one’s own housing market area.


For employers and employees, particularly in the commercial services, it is becoming increasingly more important for the home to be suitable for carrying out work in a workspace which in the eyes of the Labour Law Inspectorate satisfies the appropriate requirements. The question is, what are these requirements. A place for a computer? A modem? An Internet connection? An extra telephone connection? A fax? Space to sit down, to do word processing and search databases? Space to store records and files? And most of all: a quiet environment without noise hindrance and with reasonable privacy? That all sounds very reasonable, but the Dutch Building Decree has not yet reached that stage. Increasingly often we hear that the ground floor of a family house must not only have a living room and a kitchen, but also a separate work space. How many family houses can provide this facility? To what extent are efforts being made to meet this wish? What can the employee and possibly the employer afford for such provision at home which saves on commuting from home to work, and transfers computer and telephone costs from the business to the home?

And then there is probably a small, specific, but very interesting group which sets much higher demands on their houses in order to be able to work at home. In the Netherlands roughly 80% of beginning entrepreneurs start their businesses in their own homes. Think of Hewlett and Packard who set up their embryo high-tech business in a garage in Silicon Valley. And in the Netherlands, the Philips brothers, who did much the same. Think of the workshops, ateliers, practice space for the physiotherapist or speech therapist, a wine tasting business, a business administration bureau, an outside catering firm, or a repair business. And that takes no account of moonshine distilleries, hash cultivation, or XTC laboratories.

What would happen if we built more houses with attached garages on the VINEX locations, mentioned in section 1? Would that promote car mobility? The households which are currently established on a VINEX location have on average just over one car per household. And you don’t think that the residents would use such a beautiful garage just for storing the car? A garage is a marvellous extra space which can be equipped as a workshop, as a recreation room, or for extra storage. Attics and (now less often) cellars can also have such a function. It is far from always the case that it is high-tech and other post-modern business activities which take place at home. Not infrequently it is still a matter of more traditional activities such as shelling shrimps, making lampshades, or sorting out second-hand clothes.

There are some home workers who set very specific demands on their work space. They can indicate with exact precision what requirements their atelier or practice space must meet. The question is rather whether these requirements will remain unchanged for a whole century. In the Netherlands a dwelling lasts on average for more than 110 years. We must therefore take into account the changing business requirements accompanying a changing range of trades and businesses. Requirements for flexibility and adaptation must be to the fore in such cases. If the demand for workspaces at home is brought carefully into the picture there could be a certain proportion of houses suitable for working at home both on VINEX locations as in renewal districts. In Louw (1999) an overview is given of recently built and designed working at home houses.


Since E-business leads people to spend more time in their homes, the need for a spacious house is strengthened (for example, with one or two office or study rooms), as is the need for flexible lay-out, services (such as messaging services) and better telematics provision (such as ISDN) (Vlek, 1986; 1987; Stec Groep, 2000: 58). In short: the intelligent home is the future (Caso, 1991; Wilkström et al, 1998).

One increasingly hears it said that homes ought to be provided with a separate work space. A limited share of house seekers specifically want a living-working house (Louw, 1999). Ahrentzen (1989) gives indications for the design of a living-working house (see: Caso, 1991; Louw, 1999). Space and flexibility are the core themes.

Everything seems to indicate that Toffler’s theory is now taking root in practical terms, even though the signalled changes are only at an early stage. The significance of the home is increasing, but for the community impact, the environmental impact, the economic impact, and the psychological impact it is clear, just as Toffler predicted, that much remains to be seen.



8.       Impacts on the neighbourhood


The growth of ICT implies for the home, as we argued in section 7: space, flexibility, good connections on ICT nets, the integration of legal conditions of employment requirements and functional residential requirements, the close availability of pluriform service and care arrangements, opportunities for differentiation in home and work activities, both individual and collective activities, ample facilities for the delivery of products (box or safe) and adequate parking accommodation for cars and bicycles. The interaction between residents, home, and urban services will increase spectacularly (Caso, 1991).

This brings us to the neighbourhood level.

It is encouraging that increasingly more municipalities, housing associations and the business world can look at the developments sketched here straight in the eye. Perhaps images of their experiences of the classic urban renewal remain in their memories; then, pre-war districts were renovated for the sake of the housing function at the cost of commercial activities and employment, which often disappeared with the demolition and renovation. Employment in the districts undergoing renovation must not suffer as a result, but should rather emerge as the victor, with the urban vitality and economy of the district receiving a substantial boost. Moreover, the differentiation and liveliness in the urban renewal districts and on VINEX locations would be well served with a far-going integration of commercial activity in individual houses and the residential area.

In this context one can think of small scale employment in the district which would not fit into a single house. A fitness centre, the back-office of an administration bureau, or the workshop of a housing association. Such facilities could be given a place in the basement of an apartment building, so that the ground floor would immediately get a lively aura. One can also imagine facilities being constructed so that they are linked to a local shopping centre.

If the housing associations were to listen to their residents, they would be able to grasp the enormous demand for various residential services, welfare services and care arrangements, varying from the demand for household help, security firms, prepared meals to delivery services for medication, pizzas and other products, crèches and help with DIY. Meeting this demand fits on the one hand with the drive to maintain the legendary customer friendliness of the housing associations and can on the other hand contribute to a more differentiated and lively residential environment with facilities for business activity, employment and voluntary services.

Little is known as yet with respect to the background and the nature of the demand for workspaces in districts undergoing renovation and on VINEX locations. We may assume that the rapid rise of telematics in combination with the increasing congestion on the roads will strongly stimulate this demand. Everything points to us having to get hold of a lever which can help us to promote the economic vitality of the cities.

For the development of VINEX locations and the restructuring of city districts that is an important prospect.


9.       Impacts on the city


The growth of ICT could be strongly related to the issue of economic vitality of cities.

Table 1 reveals how in the Netherlands as a whole employment is growing by 2.5% per year (1980 - 1995) and in the last five years (1990 - 1995) by as much as 2.7%. Urban employment has however stagnated. In 31 cities (G31) with a large urban renewal task, the growth rate was 1.4% per year in the period 1980 - 1995, while in the last five years (1990 - 1995) the growth rate fell to 0.9% per year.


Table 1              Development of urban employment in index figures and average annual growth rate in percentages, 1980 – 1995



Index 1980-1995 (1980 = 100)

Annual rate of growth 1980-1995

Index 1990-1995 (1990 = 100)

Annual rate of growth 1990-1995

Total G 31





Rest of the Netherlands





Total for the Netherlands





Source: Central Bureau for Statistics (Priemus et al., 1998: I - 65).


Table 2       Sectoral distribution of employment in the cities in percentages of total employment in 1995




Business, hotels and restaurants

Traffic and communication

Financial and
commercial services

Government and other services

Total G 31







Total for the Netherlands







Source: Central Bureau for Statistics (Priemus et al., 1998: I - 68).



Table 2 shows that urban employment (G 31) is characterized by a low share of industrial employment and a relatively high share of financial and commercial services.


Table 3              Growth of the Gross Regional Product (GRP) of the urbanized districts (1970 - 1995)




growth in GRP in % per annum (1970-95)

City Environs

growth in GRP in %

per annum (1970-95)

Urban district

growth in GRP in %

per annum (1970-95)

Cities G 27




Rest of the Netherlands




Total for the Netherlands




Source: Van der Vegt & Manshanden, 1996 : 31; Priemus et al, 1997 : 54.

In the period 1970 - 1995 the Gross National Product in the Netherlands grew by an average of 2.8% per year (see Table 3). This was also the rate of growth in the urbanized districts of 27 cities with a large urban renewal task (G 27). In the 27 cities the growth of the growth of the Gross Regional product in the city environs was much higher (3.7%) than the gross product of the cities themselves (2.0%).

The employment development in the central cities has lagged behind that of the surrounding region (Van der Vegt & Manshanden, 1996 : 60). If we consider the development of the Gross Regional Product and the development of employment, then we must conclude that the economy in cities in the Netherlands is not going well and that the central cities lag economically behind the surrounding regions. The urban development via VINEX locations and urban renewal must thus be directed not only to housing, but also to employment and business activity.

The spatial integration of home and work as a result of the growing role of ICT could reduce the economic backlog of central cities and could contribute to a better social
equity between city and suburb.

For the city these developments imply a much greater pressure on the multiple use of space inside buildings and at the level of district and neighbourhood, increasing employment opportunities in the district, differentiated services and facilities in district and neighbourhood, and hierarchical, finely branched infrastructures for ICT and physical traffic. Moreover, opportunities for outdoor recreation from the home must also be within easy reach, which suggests a network of water- and green structures in the city. This calls up a picture of a network city with a greater density around the traffic infrastructure and in particular the transfer points, and a lower density in the areas bordering on the water- and green structures. Sharper contrasts will be created in the cities, which in the Netherlands also include the growth centres and the VINEX-locations and which are being transformed from single core cities to multi core urbanized regions. This perspective has consequences not only for the development of new areas, but also particularly for the redevelopment and renewal of existing areas. Moreover, in this perspective there is a greater freedom of choice in place of business or residence (Vlek, 1987).



10.   Impacts on the use of transport infrastructure


When the sharp dividing line between working time and free time will be blurred and when the spatial integration between home and work will increase, that will have strong impacts on transport patterns. The morning and evening peak will flatten out, the number of crisscross relations will increase. This will improve the efficiency in the use of transport infrastructure. Different forms of road pricing including congestion pricing, will support this tendency. Ceteris paribus this means that the need to expand the traffic infrastructure will slow down: more often a better use will be a more plausible solution than building new infrastructures.



11.  Conclusion


This contribution is not the result of dedicated empirical investigations. It seeks to contribute to a future research agenda for spatial sciences.

Since Toffler’s ‘The third wave’ it has generally been supposed that the ICT explosion will have substantial direct and indirect spatial impacts on human behavior. In this contribution we specify and underpin expectations about the character and spatial implications of these changes.

A first expectation is the emergence of a new origin of inequalities: after inequalities in income, education and ethnicity, the divide between the ‘connected’ and the ‘unconnected’ will gain ground. Needless to say, this new divide is not unrelated to the old socio-economic and cultural divides and could very well intensify existing inequalities.

A second supposition is that the growing use of ICT will impact strongly on the time-space budgets of individuals and households. It is supposed that ICT will strengthen developments towards individualization. People will live in two worlds at the same time: the ‘real’ world and the ‘virtual’ world. This division leads to increasing fragmentation of life: people live, work, and play at more places during shorter time intervals. ICT moves us to a zap culture which could have spatial impacts at different levels: the dwelling, the neighborhood, the city, and the use of infrastructure.

A third expectation is that the variety of functions within a dwelling will increase. The home will be the place not only for consumptive activities, but also for work, learning, shopping, banking, and many specifically recreational activities. The demand will grow to combine these different functions in one dwelling: when one household member is at home teleworking, the others must have the opportunity to sleep, watch television, or follow a course.

A fourth expectation is that the tendency to combine different functions at neighborhood level will increase. This expectation relates especially to housing and employment, which will be less separate in time and space than (since the industrial revolution) has traditionally been the case.

A fifth supposition is that the economic vitality of the (central) cities will be strengthened by the ICT revolution and that as a result the economic divide between the central city and the suburb will decline. The spatial integration of home and employment will change urban forms. Cities and urban regions will develop into true network cities in which traffic infrastructures, IT infrastructures, and ecological water and green structures will determine the spatial development of cities and urban regions. At the same time an increase in mobility, the scale of labor and housing markets, and a development from mononuclear to polynuclear urban configurations can be anticipated.

Finally, a sixth expectation is that the ICT revolution will lead to a more efficient and intensive use of traffic infrastructure. The development of automation in the transport of passengers and freight would enlarge the capacity of the infrastructure. The fragmentation of life would reduce congestion and lead to a crisscrossing of traffic, as a result of which traffic infrastructure would be better used. Road pricing could support an efficiency increase in the use of infrastructure.

The expectations and suppositions specified above could form the base of an exciting research agenda for spatial sciences in the years to come.




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