The new digital condition: nomadism, topolygamy and ubiquity

Digitizing territories makes them more attractive to digital nomads

Now that there is so much talk about the 5G digital economy, it is important to reflect on the digitization of territories and their future attractiveness in this context.

In principle, the digitization of territories makes them more attractive to digital nomads, as if they manage to be attractive, they become part of the ubiquity points of digital innovators.

The digitization of territories, which the convergence of 4G and 5G networks allows, makes them destination places for economic, artistic, sporting, cultural and scientific activities and, as such, the object of countless commuting movements of visitors seeking these activities and infrastructures .

We are talking about technological incubators, start ups, coworking spaces, research projects and scientific journeys, artistic residencies and cultural weeks, nature trails and extreme sports, observation of local endemic flora and fauna and, of course, tourist visits. All activities that digital marketing makes available to any citizen anywhere in the world.

Now, the technological and digital constellation that is coming is an authentic labor and socio-professional revolution, as shown in the table:

This revolution in technological and digital activities, in labor markets and in socio-professional skills calls, in the same sense, for a revolution in intelligent ecosystems for territorial reception where it is possible to discuss and prepare the terms for the passage of a platform online for a community offline.

Now, this territorial welcoming structure may not be up to the new digital condition, made up, precisely, of nomadism, topolygamy and ubiquity. If there is no intelligent host ecosystem where each digitized individual can fit their digital strategy, that is, optimize their point of ubiquity (the point where they maximize the use of their digital time) and their personal topolygamy (the point where maximizes your center places map) everything can easily crumble.

Let's look at some aspects of the problem in the form of a decalogue.

1) Technological and digital options will increasingly determine the base matrix of a territory, which will thus progressively move from a hierarchical, vertical and bordered territory-zone (TZ) to a network-territory (TR) , collaborative, horizontal and borderless; in addition, the traditional territorial collectivity, the local autarchy, will no longer be confused with the local political society, which will expand in this way;

2) In the near future, digital transformation will significantly change the resource endowment of a territory; thus, a TR will have so much of outsourcing and outsourcing and, in this way, its field of possibilities and development may be extraordinarily increased, as long as there is collective intelligence to do so;

3) In terms of 4G and 5G digital coverage, each network speed will correspond to a different space-time and, in this differentiated transition, many territorial configurations, network territories and value chains will emerge;

4) The higher speed, lower latency and greater connectivity of the digital coverage of 4G and 5G networks increase, in principle, the number of digital nomads, their frequented places map (topolygamy) and their points of ubiquity (maximization of available digital times); to this extent, each digital nomad builds a certain map of central places, a personal geography, according to his own idiosyncrasy;

5) At each point of ubiquity, the digital nomad uses several collaboration and sharing platforms; to this extent, a network territory will have more and more activities, but will not necessarily have more inhabitants since nomadism prevails over settlement and residence;

6) It is very important that the digitization of territories is not reduced to a technological cyst implanted in some point of the territory; therefore, it is essential that the digitization of the territory means more and better collective territorial intelligence (ICT), greater capacity for self-determination and is no longer an additional factor of social exclusion;

7) The digitization of territories makes them more visible in cyberspace, as if they were virtual image scenarios; suddenly, territorial distinctive signs – local productions, heritage, endemism, landscapes, crafts – are on the radar of world demand and for all this transformation, a new technological and digital architecture of information and knowledge is essential;

8) The production of information and knowledge is not independent of the digital technology options that are available and their price/cost; a more advanced ICT system produces more features, but may not be profitable in certain territories due to a lack of users and users; if the option falls on a less complex and cheaper system, these features are not offered and the territory is deprived of these options which, in practice, translate into lesser digital nomadism and topolygamy;

9) The relationship between technological options, services offered and territorial cohesion often creates a vicious circle that is difficult to overcome; generally, a territory is instrumentalized and its strategy is subordinated to the available technologies and the LOBBY of the computer business; now, it is the opposite that must happen, that is, it is the territorial collective intelligence that must determine the path to be followed and what information and knowledge are relevant and must be mobilized for this purpose;

10) Zone territories operate in a vertical logic and mostly obey the rules of the more conventional regional economy, while network territories operate in a more horizontal logic and in accordance with the new rules of the digital economy; this means that there is a collaborative and institutional cohabitation that is imperative to carry out under penalty of our digital nomads being a kind of extraterrestrials in permanent transit.

Final grade

Finally, I leave a warning to navigation. Cross-cutting areas such as the ecological transition, the digital transition and territorial cohesion, due to the numerous external, positive and negative effects they produce, urgently need a territorial administration endowed with a high degree of systemic rationality.

I am no longer talking about digital nomadism, topolygamy and ubiquity, but about a dedicated administration, a mission structure, an intelligent territorial platform that is able to limit the diffuse and dispersive effects and increase the network and agglomeration economies of your collaborative territorial community.

Hence, the two planes, the micro plane of individual behaviors (more mobile) and the meso plane of territorial shelter structures (more fixed) are intimately associated. For future memory, at the next Iberian summit on 2 October 2020 the “villages for digital nomads” will be announced.

Curious, isn't it? And very romantic, too. I'll get back to the subject.


Author António Covas is a Retired Full Professor at the University of Algarve