Knowledge society and territorial intelligence

It is necessary to fight against the symbolic irrelevance of territories in terms of natural and cultural heritage

We live in a knowledge society. Our problems are, to a large extent, due to accumulated deficits in knowledge. One of these deficits concerns the territorial collective intelligence that emerges here and there in the search for its own path of smartification.

Let's look, for example, at what's going on around us. In recent years, in many regions of the country, with the support of European and national funds, what we could call the embryo of intelligent communities have been created: science and technology parks, research and development centers, technological poles, business centers, company nests, incubators and accelerators of startup, spaces of coworking, a network of Smart cities, a network of living labs, a national network of local development associations, a national rural network, venture capital societies, a network Start Up Portugal, an association of business angels, hubs technological and creative, as well as many business associations of very variable geometry.

Let us think, for a moment, of the immense diffuse and dispersive effects, of dubious sustainability, originating in all these putative intelligent communities, let us think of their weak agglomeration and cohesive impact on low-density territories and we are immediately left with a bitter aftertaste with regard to their effectiveness, efficiency and effectiveness, that is, their successful smartification. With a few exceptions, as always happens.

And why is this happening?

Because it lacks, precisely, an actor-network, a mission structure, enlightened leadership and territorial curatorship that take care of knowing and practicing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

There is no territorial cohesion and smartification of intermunicipal communities that resist these diffuse and dispersive effects.

Many of the external effects of the referred entities are not monitored and, sooner or later, end up getting lost in the sensitive fabric of the fragile municipal and inter-municipal business fabrics where micro and small companies with very little capitalization predominate.

In the current situation, after an epidemic, a war in Europe that no one yet knows how it will end, the rebound effects of ten sanctions packages, an energy crisis and an inflationary wave, we do not know how this immense mass of micro and small companies that form the economic fabric of our country will react to the intervention program that we call recovery and resilience (PRR).

It is no coincidence that one of its main measures is called corporate recapitalization, which, curiously, the recent report by the National Commission for Monitoring the PRR classifies as critically ill due to a clear lack of implementation.

It is true that we are still at the beginning of the digital transition. The territory’s digital coverage is not satisfactory, access difficulties and illiteracy are evident, digital business models are not yet well adjusted, the regulation of digital activity is open, privacy and security issues have not been resolved, value chains are being reconstituted, tax matters raise many questions.

In any case, the demands of digital transformation and the external effects of major transitions will collide with this immense mass of micro and small companies and profoundly change the perception of the cognitive value of collective territorial intelligence.

As we know, the collective intelligence of territories cannot be reduced to a simple computerization or digitization operation.

On the other hand, the cognitive value of collective territorial intelligence (ICT) will be highly valued if certain docking points necessary for mapping the territory are built, for example, planning plans, requalification of surrounding areas of infrastructure, product benchmarks, certification of services and destinations, accreditation of collective structures for the promotion of territories, creation of solid partnerships with research centers, community intervention programs, among others.

This mapping and reference and docking points are the sources of collective intelligence that the network actors must transform into resources and cognitive assets for territorial development.

Finally, it is necessary to fight against the symbolic irrelevance of territories in terms of natural and cultural heritage.

In fact, without a desired geography and a significant rooting in traditional culture, territories can become simple support territories and their most emblematic symbols and signs can be transformed into mere pastiche trafficked in the tourist market.

In other words, after the political and institutional disintermediation induced by the digital transformation, there is now the risk of an uncritical and irreversible deterritorialization that must be avoided at all costs.


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