|Subject: Rural 'telecottages' in Sweden
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Date Posted: 07/20/06 4:06
Author Host/IP: 219-89-249-208.adsl.xtra.co.nz/220.127.116.11
The first telecottage in Sweden opened in 1985 at Vemdalen, a village in the north of the country not far from the Norwegian border. The man responsible for initiating this scheme, Henning Albrechtsen, was inspired a few months earlier by Jan Michel, a Danish speaker at a seminar on economic development in rural regions.
The aim of setting up this first telecottage was to make jobs, vocational training and service facilities available to people in this remote part of Sweden (where there is less than one inhabitant per square kilometre); and to do this by providing access to a variety of computers and modern telecommunications equipment for anyone willing to invest time and energy by learning how to use them.
'About 40 telecottages are in the course of being set up in Scandinavia, and approximately half are already in operation; and as many as 75 countries have already joined a world-wide organisation, the International Union of Telecottages'
Today, less than four years later, about 40 telecottages are in the course of being set up in Scandinavia, with approximately half already in operation. The Association of Nordic Telecottages (FILIN) has been formed to foster cooperation and as many as 75 countries have already joined a world-wide organisation, the International Union of Telecottages (TCI).
The telecottage infoteque combines the functions of a training centre, library, post office, telecom shop and communications centre, with courses in the use of computers and telecommunications equipment. As a service unit, the telecottage is able to assist local firms with letter writing, book keeping, translations, etc, whilst functioning as an office for small businesses, and providing advice on the purchase of computers and software. FILIN is opening marketing offices in the larger cities of Scandinavia in order to gather work from large companies and agencies, for feeding out to the telecottages.
In the case of the Vemdalen telecottage, the initial finance (approximately 1m Swedish kroner) came from the government, Swedish Telecom and the local council. It has managed to cover its running costs in a short period of time, bringing in a monthly income of as much as 150,000 kroner.
From the beginning, the initiators of the project wanted to create a number of jobs where people could sit at home, each working with their own computer connected to the main computer in the telecottage. The unions worried that the workers might be exploited in their low-paid isolation. A solution was adopted whereby these individuals became members of the telecottage staff, working at home if they prefer to do so, but with the choice of working alongside their colleagues in the telecottage. As employees, their rights are thus assured as are their social contacts.
Telecottaging in the UK
Summarised from an article by Susan Watts, entitled How The Archers created new jobs, in The Independent.
As the benefits become more widely known, interest in telecottages is growing among both workers and employees in the UK. There are now nearly 70 telecottages scattered around remote districts of the country, with research by the Department of Employment projecting fourfold growth before the millenium, and a workforce upwards of 10,000.
Employees (and freelancers) who use the telecottages appreciate the increased flexibility of their working life. Telecottaging has a particular appeal for working mothers, who find it easier to combine with their other responsibilities than a conventional job - and also for freelancers who don't necessarily wish to live in London. Employers like it too: research by BT - quite impartial, no doubt, despite their huge investment in the development of this field - reckon it can save a company between £6,000 and £20,000 per employee per annum. Thinking along these lines has led the Royal Mail to assign 10 of its administrative staff, who would otherwise be forced to commute up to London, to a 'neighbourhood office' Wren Telecottage in Warwickshire.
And, as a crowning emblem of telecottages' arrival in the mainstream of rural British life, it has even been featured on The Archers.
TCI and FILIN, Box 54, S.820 92 Vemdalen, Sweden (tel 46 684 30453). Christer Lundberg is helping the islanders of the northern archipelago outside Gothenburg to set up their own telecottages; his address is Div. for Industrial Architecture and Planning, Chalmers University of Technology, S. 412 96 Goteborg, Sweden (tel 46 31 722478).
This project, actually under way, has similarities with the proposals of Clive Akerman, above. The details are extracted from 'Ledis', a newsletter about local economic development, put out by the Planning Exchange (3 Worsley Road, Worsley, Manchester M28 4NN, tel 0161 727 8677; fax 0161 727 8675).
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