By Stephen Lax (eds.)

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A problem with the few surveys conducted on the pager is that once such ICTs are integrated into one’s life, it is difficult to discern their importance. This is the proverbial problem of a fish not being able to see it depends on water. For example, a 1996 sample survey of 1008 US adults asked respondents whether ICTs like the pager and PC made their lives easier or more complex (Sloan School of Management 1999). Surprisingly large proportions of the respondents felt that ICTs had little or no impact on their lives.

The trade unions have been slow to use or recognize the importance of telematics in any of the three broad categories of their activity – collective bargaining, providing mutual insurance and campaigning for legal change. However, trade unions and the labour movement worldwide are increasingly turning to telematics to improve the way in which they work. For example, the Liverpool Dockers’ dispute, finally settled in 1999, relied for its strength and longevity over two years on the use of telematics to garner political, economic and industrial support worldwide.

Yet, this same process tends to constrain the use of ICTs in ways that may further exacerbate cumulative inequalities across socioeconomic groups – widening the gap between information ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. Since 1998, the pager has continued to diffuse. By 2000, 53 million pagers were in use in the US, reaching up to 20 per cent of American households (Geltzer & Company 2000). The critical role of the pager in shaping tele-access, along with its continued use in concert with the Dutton, Elberse, Hong and Matei 29 success of related ICTs such as wireless phones, should focus more social scientific attention on all kinds of wireless communications systems that support some of the same types of physical mobility.

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