Geographical and Social Location in the Everyday Use of ICTs (2011-2013)

Geographical and Social Location in the Everyday Use of ICTs (2011-2013)

Overall Aim

This project funded by the Academy of Finland (EUR 274 812) aims to clarify the linkage between geographical (the urbanrural continuum) and social location in the everyday use of ICTs. While the focus of the study is on the current Finnish information society, it will also make use of comparisons between Finland, five other European countries, and China. These comparisons will help to identify the peculiar features of the Finnish information society. The following three sub-objectives and hypotheses were set for the study:
  • Objective 1: To Identify the Role of Geographical and Social Location in ICT Use. The project will explore the role of geographical and social location as predictors of ICT use by means of surveyresearch. A set of control variables (gender, age, level of education, etc.) will be used for basicindicators of geographical and social location (e.g., household size, amount of friends, online/offlinesocial activities, etc.) to be employed as the main predictors of ICT use and concentration. Bothnational and cross-national perspectives will be included in the analyses.
  • Objective 2: To Examine the Incorporation of the Spatial Dimension of Information Society into Policy Documents. The project will involve a systematic analysis of information society policies inFinland, with the aim of establishing how the various policy documents studied reflect the transitionfrom the early information society (focusing on the diffusion and accessibility of ICTs) to the nextphase in the development (“everyday information society” in which ICTs are already widely accessibleand the focus shifts to the ways of using new ICTs). The proposed research will further investigatewhether, and in which form, policy documents contain any discussion of the potential difference that the social location of ICTs might make.
  • Objective 3: To Compare the Results of Survey and Policy Analyses Conducted. The project willundertake a comparison of the survey results regarding spatial differences in ICT use on the one hand, and the results of the above policy analysis on the other hand. In doing so, the aim is to discover the degree to which the actual differences in ICT behaviour are reflected in policy documents and by the political development of the Finnish information society. Based on these comparisons, the project will then advance of set of policy recommendations on how the geographical and social location of ICT use may be better taken into consideration when defining the policies of tomorrow.

Final Report


Describe the most important research findings, conclusions and scientific breakthroughs generated within the project and their significance for the progress of the research field. Give an account of how your data management plan has been implemented. 

In the research plan three objectives were set to clarify the linkage between geographical and social location in the everyday use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Regarding Objective 1, to identify the role of geographical and social location in ICT use, the project brought out that there is no clear difference between the rural and the urban in the patterning of ICT use and technology concentration. While people’s social embeddedness in society was taken into account, it appeared that people living in relatively rural areas (in between the most urban and rural regions) most often stood out in the survey samples that were studies. 

In general, results showed an unexpected role of the relatively rural areas as attractor of new technologies. Although the largest cities remained the locus of telecommunications on the whole, the relationship between ICTs and people’s place of abode changed considerably between 1996 and 2009 in EU5 countries (Italy, France, Germany, Spain, UK).Interestingly, some ICT tool and services derogated from this general trend. For example, the mobile phone turned out to be less widespread in these medium sized cities in 2009 when EU5 countries were examined. In Finland, a study based on a data collected in 2001 showed that also the probability of using e-government services does not increase completely straightforward as those who live in settlements of 30,001–100,000 inhabitants use services slightly more often than the residents of cities with 100,001–250,000 inhabitants. This is the case even if the most active users were typically located in the largest cities.

All in all, findings produced during the project suggest that the concentration of the use of ICTs and related services might account for families made up of well-trained adults, with children and middle or low income levels, forced to move from big cities to surrounding middle-size and small municipalities in a search of lower-priced houses and larger properties. Hence, the findings support the idea that digital equalities should be understood more as digital continuums or spectrums than as dualistic urban-rural phenomena.

Rearding Objective 2, to examine the incorporation of the spatial dimension of information society into policy documents, the project carried out a systematic analysis of information society strategies in Finland. It was expected that the current information society policies of the Finnish government show awareness of the degree to which ICTs are already embedded into daily life, as reflected in the oft-employed expressions ‘ubiquitous’ or ‘everyday’ information society and the ‘second digital divide’. Further, it was expected that phenomena such as these are addressed as geographical or social issues, rather than mere technological and economic challenges. 

Main results considering this objective were published in a journal article that came out in ‘Mobilities’ in 2012. These results show that of the investigated fours national strategies, published between 1995 and 2010, only the latest strategy takes a step in the this direction. Nevertheless, the same 2010 strategy includes also many elements of the technological determinism and market-driven ideology typical of previous strategies. To sum up, the strategic political development of the Finnish information society has not sufficiently recognized and addressed the social needs of people in the information age. This is somewhat surprising when considered that the most revolutionary and wide-spread ICTs are personal and portable in nature.

Regarding Objective 3, to compare the results of survey and policy analyses conducted, it can be concluded that the degree to which the actual differences in ICT behaviour are reflected in policy documents and by the political development of the Finnish information society is alarmingly low. The information-society policies do not fall in line with the population’s daily ICT needs, which stem from the complex intertwining of geographical and socio-economic differences that are prevalent in Finland. Most strikingly, results concerning the use of e-government services show that these services are mainly beneficial to the better-off: to those who already have a good access to corresponding ‘offline’ services and whose household income is high. 

As promised in the project proposal, the collected Finnish survey data and the questionnaire will be transferred to the Finnish Social Science Data Archive (FSD). As the Academy of Finland has provided further project funding (decision no. 265986) to analyse this data, the transfer of the data will be postponed till the end of the new project.


Publications produced in the project

  1. Taipale, S., Oinas, T. & Salminen, V.-M. (2014) Internet Use and Informal Help for Surrounding Communities in Finland. In Denison T. Sarrica M. Stillman L, (eds.) Theories and practice for Community and Social Informatics. Melbourne: Monash University Publishing. 2013
  2. Fortunati, Leopoldina & Taipale, Sakari (2014) The advanced use of mobile phones in five European countries. British Journal of Sociology
  3. Fortunati, L. & Taipale, S. (2013) The diffusion and use of information and communication technologies and the city from 1996 to 2009. First Monday.
  4. Saari, J. & Taipale, S. (2013). Sosiaalipolitiikka ja hyvinvointivaltio. Teoksessa J. Saari, S. Taipale, & S. Kainulainen (toim.), Hyvinvointivaltion moderneja klassikoita (s. 17-40). Diakonia-ammattikorkeakoulun julkaisuja. A Tutkimuksia (38). Diakonia-ammattikorkeakoulu.
  5. Taipale, S. (2013). Informaatioaika - Manuel Castells ja verkostoituva hyvinvointivaltio. Teoksessa J. Saari, S. Taipale, & S. Kainulainen (toim.), Hyvinvointivaltion moderneja klassikoita (s. 173-197). Diakoniaammattikorkeakoulun julkaisuja. A Tutkimuksia (38). Helsinki, Finland: Diakonia-ammattikorkeakoulu.
  6. Fortunati, L., Taipale, S. & de Luca, F. (2013) What happened to body-to-body sociability? Social Science Research, 42(3), 893-905.
  7. Taipale, S. (2013, accepted) The Relationship between Internet Use, Online and Printed Newspaper Reading in Finland: Investigating the Direct and Moderating Effects of Gender, European Journal of Communication 28(1), 5-18,
  8. Fortunati, L. & Taipale, S. (2012) Women’s Emotions Towards the Mobile Phone, Feminist Media Studies, 12(4), 538-549,
  9. Taipale, S. (2012) The Use of e-government Services and the Internet: the Role of Socio-demographic, Economic and Geographical Predictors, Telecommunications Policy.
  10. Fortunati, Leopoldina & Taipale, Sakari (2012) Adoption of new froms of television and emotion in five European countries. In Abruzzese et al. (eds.) The New Television Ecosystem. Peter Lang: Frankfurt am Main, pp. 21-40.
  11. Taipale, S. (2012) Mobilities in Finland’s Information Society Strategies from 1995 to 2010, Mobilities. (iFirst)
  12. Taipale, S. (2012) Mobility of Cultures and Knowledge Management in Contemporary Europe, The European Review, 20(2), 173-181.
  13. Taipale, Sakari (2013) Book review of "New Connectivities in China: Virtual, Actual and Local Interactions" edited by Pui-lam Law. International Journal of Communication.
  14. Taipale, Sakari (2012) Book review of "The Politics of Proximity: Mobility and Immobility in Practice" edited by Giuseppina Pellegrino. Journal of Urban Technology 19(1), 107-110,
  15. Taipale, S. (2011) Book review of "Experiencing Broadband Society" edited by Gerbhardt et al., Information, Communication & Society, 14(7), 1080-1082.
  16. Taipale, S. (2011) Book review of "Interacting with Broadband Society" edited by Fortunati et al., Global Media and Communication, 7(2), 164-166.
  17. Saari, J., Taipale, S. & Kainulainen, S. (toim.) (2013) Hyvinvointivaltion moderneja klassikoita. A-Sarja: Tutkimuksia. Helsinki: Diak,


Conference attendances


  • 8.9.2010 Mobilities in Finland’s information society strategies from 1995 to 2010, ESA Conference, Geneva, Switzerland
  • 8.4.2011 Mobilities in Finland’s information society strategies from 1995 to 2010, Tieto, tiede, teknologia –tutkimusseminaari, Tampere, Finland
  • 11.10.2011 Mobilities in the digital age, Pordenone, Italy,
  • 22.11.2011 The sophistication of mobile phone use in five European countries, Lifetyle and Mobile Communication Workshop, Turku, Finland
  • 16.8.2012 The dimensions of mobilities: The spatial relationships between corporeal and digital mobilities. The 26th Conference of the Nordic Sociological Association 2012, Reykjavik, Iceland
  • 22.2.2013 Capturing Methodological Trends in Mobile Communication Studies. Methodologies of mobile communication and media research, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 11.6.2013 Europeans’ perception of robots: implications for social policies. The future concept and reality of social robotics: Challenges, Perception and Applications - Role of Social Robotics in current and future society. Brussels, Belgium.
  • 1-3.5.2013, Analysis of Mobile Phone Datasets (NETMOB) Mobile phones and digital generations in EU5 countries: a comparison of the 1996 and 2009 survey data. MIT, Cambridge, USA.
  • 16-17.6.2013   Corporeal mobilities in the daily life of mobile and fixed Internet users, the 2013 ICA Mobile Preconference, London School of Economics, UK.