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person. These were mostly Caribbean and Pacific Island capitals with strong tourist
economies, capitals with major concentrations of government offices (Canberra, Ottawa,
and Washington, D.C.), and those with a single dominant service economy (Vaduz,
Luxembourg, and Singapore).

Content of First Web Pages of Capitals with Most and
Fewest Hyperlinks

I used the URL references listed on the first “screen page” of the 27 capital cities with
more than 1.5 million hyperlinks to identify materials on their Web pages. I identified
nearly three dozen categories of information. The first pages usually contained six to
eight web addresses; nearly all also contained three or four current news items at the lead
item. The contents of these pages included information provided by embassies, local
travel and tourism information, degree programs at major universities or institutes to
specific sites with city maps, investment opportunities, and local time (probably for
potential tourists). The major categories were addresses to Web sites for U.S. embassies,
embassies other than the U.S., weather, news and newspapers, travel and tourism (Figure
3). Nineteen capitals had sites with information from U.S. embassies; other counties with
embassy sites were India in Berlin, Pakistan in Tokyo, Australia in Beijing, Brazil in San
Salvador, the Netherlands in Delhi, and Switzerland and Indonesia in London. The
popular travel information site Expedia.com was another major content item. The CIA
Factbook was listed for Panama, Monaco, and San Marino. Aside from the generic travel
and tourism sites in these capital cities, there were Web sites by The Lonely Planet for
Panama and San Salvador, a site promoting the Olympic 2008 games in Beijing, festivals
in Berlin, and museums in Washington, D.C. and Paris. Webcam sites were provided for
Moscow, Auckland, and Luxembourg. Business directories were provided for Guatemala
City and San Marino and stock market updates for Singapore and Madrid. While most
of these first pages were in English, there were also Spanish sites for Madrid and Mexico
City, French sites for Paris, German for Berlin, and Chinese for Beijing.
The Web page contents of the five capitals with fewer than 6,000 URL references were
different than the largest capitals (Figure 3). These were small states; four were islands,
and three were in the Pacific Basin. Their use of the web to promote tourism was noted;
tourism sites, hotels and associated activities were prominent; many listed more than one
hotel web address or tourist/vacation opportunity. Local time was another first page

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212 Brunn

Figure 3. Content analysis of first pages of Web sites: item, perhaps to acquaint po-
Capital cities with most and least URLs or hyperlinks tential visitors with where
they are coming from vs. what
the time would be when they

The Google search engine
provides an additional data
source from which to clas-
sify and rank the world™s cit-
ies. The results, not surpris-
ingly, are different from
scholars who used airline
connections or passenger
volume or a combination of
economic and cultural data
to rank world cities. The re-
sults also demonstrate there
are wide discrepancies in the
amount of electronically
available information about
the world™s capitals. In us-
ing the volume of URL refer-
ences or number of
hyperlinks, we discover
there are clearly some capi-
tals in which the amount of
information electronically
available using the World
Wide Web is substantial.
These places produce or
have produced for them huge
amounts of reference materi-
als for Web sites. And that
volume of electronic infor-
mation increases weekly, and
in many cases daily. While
many of these high-volume
capital cities are in advanced
or core economic and wealthy states in Europe and North America, there are others that
are also well served by having much web material, including small city states such as
Singapore. Evidence of this observation is apparent in Table 2, which also identifies

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permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.
An E-Classification of the World™s Capital Cities 213

some capital cities that have strong tourism/recreation (including sports and gambling)
economies on the world scale or are major capitals with the most regional and interna-
tional offices of financial firms, NGOs, and IGOs. Second, there are clearly marginal
capitals on the world map, as measured by volume of URL references or hyperlinks alone,
especially in parts of the developing world in Africa and Asia. These have far fewer links
and might be termed “semiperipheral capitals.” Many of these are primate cities in
countries with rural economies and large rural populations. In a sense they represent
another tier of capital cities being less connected to the electronic world, thereby having
less electronic information available. The third observation, not surprisingly, identifies
those capitals that are in a peripheral category. There is just little information available
electronically about them, as measured by web addresses. These peripheral capital cities
are in some of the smallest, poorest and least accessible (measured by transportation and
communication networks to the rest of the world) states in Sub-Saharan Africa and
Southeast Asia. A fourth observation is that physical location on the world political map
is not in itself a good determinant of a state™s volume of electronic information being
available. Some of the microstates in the Caribbean and Pacific Islands have as many URL
references or hyperlinks per capita as those in the traditional economic core regions of
the developed world. Their external economies, supported in large part by tourism, have
facilitated their entry into worlds where electronic information is vital for their raison

Research Directions
This initial study into classifying the world™s capital cities using the number of URL
references suggests a number of additional topics that merit investigation by social and
policy scientists. I mention four. First, it would seem most appropriate to follow up this
study on the number of URL references or hyperlinks to specifically examine the number
of linkages or pairs of hyperlinks between and among the world™s capital cities, that is,
between each capital and every other capital. We could construct a 199x199 matrix to
examine the number of linkages between each pair of cities. For example, how many
linkages are there between Cairo and Pretoria, Cairo and Paris, Cairo and Beijing, etc.?
Or between the capital cities in Southeast Asia, South America or Europe? This
investigation would identify those capitals with the fewest and the most linkages, and
the most and fewest links with what other capitals and which major regions. (See Brunn
(2003a) for an initial inquiry into the paired hyperlinks between four major Eurasian
capitals.) A similar “linkage” study was done by Brunn and Dodge (2001) on the “export”
and “import” of the world™s states. Saad, House and Brunn (2002) did the same for the
most and least linked states. A second study would examine the number of actual linkages
a capital city has with other large, medium, and small cities within its own country. This
study might be especially insightful where the capital city is not the largest, for example,
Ottawa in Canada, Canberra in Australia, and Brasilia in Brazil. A third study would
undertake a content analysis of Web pages of capital cities in a given region to discern
if there are any commonalities or major themes. For example, are the Caribbean and Pacific
Island regions mostly promoting tourism? Are investment Web sites more common in

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permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.
214 Brunn

Europe than South Asia? Also are the contents of Web sites similar for large and small
states and those with similar socioeconomic standing? A fourth would look at the number
of linkages each world capital has with New York, the site of the United Nations, and also
with Geneva and Vienna, which have U.N. offices. Also it would merit measuring the
number of linkages between existing and potentially new European Union member
capitals with Brussels and Strasbourg. In carrying out these and other studies that use
data from major search engines, we will learn more about individual capitals, information
that is becoming of increased importance to scholars, the commercial sector and
governments. We also learn more about capital cities in major world regions and their
place in contemporary and future worlds (Brunn and Ghose, 2003; Castells, 2002; Van der
Wusten, 2002).

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216 Brunn

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permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.
Online Services and Regional Web Portals 217

Chapter XI

Online Services and
Regional Web Portals:
Exploring the Social and
Economic Impacts1
Helen Thompson
University of Ballarat, Australia

This chapter examines community empowerment, economic and business development,
and equity of service as the issue of success and decline in regional and rural
communities is explored with a particular focus on community informatics initiatives
(CI). In Australia, there has been a vision for online services to be used to open up
regional communities to the rest of the world. Government support has been seen as
enhancing the competence levels of local communities so they become strong enough
to deal equitably in an increasingly open marketplace. But how effective have regional
portals and other online initiatives been? This chapter explores whether economic and
social benefits are generated via establishing and sustaining regional CI initiatives.
Theory relevant to online communities is introduced to provide a context for the
presentation of two case studies. The dissemination of the critical learning from these
cases can inform others about the diverse factors which impact on the effectiveness and
long-term sustainability of regional CI initiatives.

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218 Thompson

Information communications technology (ICT) has been identified as a key enabler in the
achievement of regional and rural success, particularly in terms of economic and
business development. The potential for achieving equity of service through improved
communications infrastructure and enhanced access to government, health, education
and other services has been identified. ICT has also been linked to the aspiration of
community empowerment where dimensions include revitalising a sense of community,
building regional capacity, enhancing democracy and increasing social capital.
There has been strong support for the view that the information economy will play a
seminal role in the growth of regional and rural Australia. Online capabilities and services
have been promoted on the basis that they can build stronger and more viable regional
communities with enhanced investment, employment and skills, and improved quality
and convenience of life. ICT has also been identified as providing opportunities to “level
the playing field” with access increasingly being seen as critical for both economic and
social well-being. Benefits have been espoused in terms of “location independence” and
the end of the “tyranny of distance” (Department for Information Technology and the
Arts, 1998; Department of Communications Information Technology and the Arts, 2000;
Department of Communications Information Technology and the Arts and National
Office for the Information Economy, 2000). In terms of enhancing community well-being,
it has been argued that online capabilities can help to stimulate and reinvigorate
geographic communities and communities of interest.
There has been considerable interest in promoting ICT and e-commerce uptake for small
and medium enterprises (SMEs) with the role of local government in promoting SME
uptake receiving consideration (Surridge, 2000; Romm and Taylor, 2001; SkillsNet
Association Co-operative Limited, 2001; Jakobs, 2002). Summary case studies have been
presented to demonstrate how individual businesses have adopted and benefited from
ICT and e-commerce (Department of Communications and the Arts and AUSe.NET
Australian Electronic Business Network, 1998; Papandrea, 1998; National Office for the
Information Economy, 2000; Papandrea and Wade, 2000; Ernst & Young and Multimedia
Victoria, 2002). These are, however, generally very brief accounts which lack detail in
terms of the processes, the challenges, the evaluation approach and actual outcomes
(both expected and unexpected). In terms of community informatics literature, the focus
tends to be either on discrete ICT initiatives or on telecentres. There is scant literature
which explores how communities can establish web-based services which support local
community goals, whether they are social, economic or environmental.
A raft of government policies and programs has been launched and reports published
and disseminated, based around the theme of ICT and online capabilities. However, a
range of barriers continues to impede uptake, particularly in regional and rural areas.
Issues which have been explored include the “digital divide” and “equity of access.”
While it is has been argued that regional and rural communities require first class
infrastructure to harness the power of ICT (Victorian Government, 2002), others, perhaps
more realistically, state that the goal of true equity of access may never be achieved
(Hunter, 1999; Fong, 2001). Hunter, for example, believes that regional Australia must

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Online Services and Regional Web Portals 219

stop “talking down” its ability to participate in the new global economy (Hunter, 1999,
p.3). Supply and demand and economies of scale “will always ensure technology and
therefore services will be rolled out in metropolitan areas long before they are even
considered for regional areas” (Hunter, 1999, p.1). “If we wait for equity of access, we
will wait forever” (Hunter, 1999, p.3).
Calls continue for regional communities to join the globalised, online world. These are
supported by the view that success today is based less and less on natural resource
wealth, labour costs and relative exchange rates and more and more on individual
knowledge, skills and innovation. But how can regional communities “grab their share
of this wealth” and use it to strengthen local communities (Simpson, 1999, p.6)? Should
communities be moving, as Porter (2001, p.18) recommends (for business), away from the
rhetoric about “Internet industries,” “e-business strategies” and the “new economy” to
see the Internet for what it is: “an enabling technology “ a powerful set of tools that can
be used, wisely or unwisely, in almost any industry and as part of almost any strategy?”
Recent Australian literature (particularly government literature) does indeed demon-
strate somewhat of a shift in terms of the expectations of ICT and e-commerce (National
Office for the Information Economy, 2001; Multimedia Victoria, 2002; National Office for
the Information Economy, 2002). Consistent with reflections on international industry
experience, there is now a greater emphasis on identifying locally appropriate initiatives,
exploring opportunities for improving existing communication and service quality and
for using the Internet and ICT to support more efficient community processes and
relationships (Hunter, 1999; Municipal Association of Victoria and ETC Electronic
Trading Concepts Pty Ltd, 2000; National Office for the Information Economy, 2002).
In spite of a context where ICT and online capabilities are promoted as critical elements
of potential regional and rural success, few attempts have been made to draw together
various intellectual streams of research with examples of community practice to gain a
clear understanding of their contribution. Goggin (2001) identifies the need to redress
apparent oversights in the literature dealing with online technologies and regional
development. Denison et al. (2002) recognise the need for research which clarifies many
of the assumptions and unspoken expectations about how electronic tools can be used
by groups and organisations. Black et al. (2000) make a specific call for research to be
instigated to collect case studies that demonstrate how community-based Internet
services can be established for socially and economically beneficial purposes.
This chapter makes a contribution by investigating factors which affect the success of
community informatics initiatives. It also examines impacts in terms of promoting
community empowerment, economic and business development, and equity of services.
Two case studies are presented. Both initiatives were premised on an understanding that
well-developed and well-implemented online services could make a positive contribution
to the future of regional and rural communities. These cases provide a focus for examining
the benefits and challenges of establishing and sustaining community informatics
initiatives in a regional and rural context.

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