Digital economy in the UK: an evolutionary story

Emmanouil Tranos

University of Bristol, Alan Turing Institute
, @EmmanouilTranos,


  • Introduction
  • Web data
  • Spatial analysis
  • S-shaped diffusion curves
  • Rank dynamics
  • Conclusions



  • Map the active engagement with the digital
  • Over time, early stages of the internet
  • Granular and multi-scale spatial perspective


  • Diffusion of a new technology: the web
  • Geographers used to be interested in diffusion
  • Hagerstrand et al. (1968)
  • Passed the torch to economists and sociologists
  • Why? Lack of granular data:

Because new digital activities are rarely—if ever—captured in official state data, researchers must rely on information gathered from alternative sources (Zook and McCanless 2022).


  • Understand how the adoption of new technologies evolves

  • Guide policies for deployment of new technologies

  • Predictions of introduction times for future technologies (Meade and Islam 2021):

    • Network operators

    • Suppliers of network equipment

    • Regulatory authorities

Technological diffusion

Spatial diffusion processes

  • As in temporal diffusion models, an S-shaped pattern in the cumulative level of adoption

  • A hierarchy effect: from main centres to secondary ones – central places

  • A neighborhood effect: diffusion proceeds outwards from innovation centres, first “hitting” nearby rather than far-away locations (Grubler 1990)

Hägerstrand (1965): from innovative centres (core) through a hierarchy of sub-centres, to the periphery

Web data

Long story short

  • Archived web data

  • Observe commercial websites 1996 - 2012 in the UK (

  • Geolocate:

    • to a unique postcode

    • to multiple postcodes