This paper discusses the establishment of distant work centers as an element in local development strategies in rural areas with a particular view on two new telework centers in Region North Denmark Distant work is a phenomenon on the rise, due to the development of the internet on the one hand and new flexible work functions on the other hand. Not only the exchange of documents, but also meetings can be organized virtually by still better video conference equipment and programs. An implication is that an increasing number of new service jobs in the knowledge economy can be carried out regardless of location, as long as there is access to internet. Not only firms, but individual labor is potentially liberated from the logic of physical location and proximity. Technically speaking ‘geography is dead’ and the clustering of new service jobs in big cities is no longer a technical necessity. This is good news for rural areas, where the access to new service jobs is limited. In order to make distant work performed outside of the city centers attractive, telework centers have been established with the aim of providing office facilities and a professional and social environment for service workers. In the US, in Canada and Australia the number of telework centers is high and rising. Also in Europe a number of telework centers have been established, well documented in eg France. In connection with the EU program Micropole, Region North Denmark has initiated two telework centers in rural areas. The present paper is developed as part of a research project on the developmental potentials of these two telework centers. The paper consists in three major parts. A summary of the history of telework centers and international experiences (France, US,, Canada, Australia) to contextualize the local telework projects. A record of the development challenges of the two host municipalities Jammerbugt and Brønderslev, to contextualize the telework centers in the local context. And finally a preliminary analysis and discussion of the two telework centers in relation to their potential community benefits of the telework center projects in terms of e.g. jobs, entrepreneurship, attraction or retention of population, and reduced commuting. Also the challenges and risks of failure connected with them will be discussed. Based on this points for further research will be suggested. Theoretically the paper will draw on relational economic geography, proximity and new peripherality in general, and on the work by Edward Malecki and Bruno Moriset on the Digital Economy and rural telecenters in particular. As an early paper from the research project this paper is basically exploratory and will present a literature survey of telework research as well as a preliminary case study of the two telework centers and their local context in Region North Denmark, based on documents as well as observations and visits to the centers. The contribution of the paper is to establish a point of departure for further research into the regional development perspectives of telework centers. The developmental perspective of telework research is severely understudied, so this paper fills a vacuum.
“new Peripherality”: Scaled, Contested and Relational: Book of Abstracts, 2013, p. 26-27
Main Research Area:
The 'new peripherality': scaled, contested and relational, 2013