The objective of the project is to show how telecommunications can enable geographically remote workers to be fully integrated into economic activities. This may be achieved through the development of the market for Information Processing services provided by TeleService Centres, (TSCs), also known as telecottages or telehouses. For these to flourish, their economic viability must be proven. These to date have (understandably) been teleworker oriented. We believe that the time is right for a complementary focus, on the commercial requirements of large companies, who have the most to gain from the decentralisation of their information handling activities.
The results of previous experiments in teleworking have been distorted by the perceived need to subsidise TSCs, in order to encourage the customer to try something new. The project will investigate whether, if all the communications needs of the function are adequately met (including communications defining the required task), the location at which a job is performed can be irrelevant to the customer. The economic and quality of service arguments put forward by a professionally run teleworking programme must themselves suffice, if a net redistribution of wealth from the cities to the regions is to occur.
Telework initiatives to date has been led from the regions, and not from the economic centres. A great deal of historical and diagnostic information has been amassed, and the time is now ripe to add the commercial dimension, and to provide innovative solutions to real commercial needs.
In the first year, the emphasis will be on producing realistic proposals for decentralising economically significant IT functions in industry. In the second year, a prototype system will be conceived, designed and built, and a blue-print for implementation of a major EC teleworking initiative will be prepared.