The OECD Territorial Review notes that “ICTs can play an important role in improving the efficiency of public service delivery in sparsely populated and remote areas. The Internet can also promote better business opportunities and help rural firms to penetrate distant markets”.
These observations formed the starting point for Digital Arctic. Our approach was three-pronged: society, technology, and business. We looked on how IT can affect the way people live, we looked on the technological issues, and we looked at business potential and how IT can help boost economic diversification.
In the spirit of its digital theme, we decided to make it a digital conference, divided into three sessions:
IT’S ABOUT HUMANS – society
MAKING IT POSSIBLE – technology
IT CAN BE DONE – business
Beyond Digital Arctic, there is a wide range of ways NORA may offer support if you were inspired by the conference. You can read more on these options under the DO IT section.
Digital Arctic at the Arctic Futures Symposium
In the continuation of Digital Arctic, NORA organised a session on ICT development in the Arctic at the Arctic Futures Symposium in Brussels on 17-18 November 2015. The session, chaired by Kate Sanderson, Head of the Faroese Mission to the EU, emphasised that digitization is essential for Arctic development.
Oana Spinu, Executive Director at the Nunavut Broadband Development Corporation (CA) said internet access is a human right due to its importance for education. “In the Canadian Arctic, I would argue that the lack of digitization constitutes a social injustice”, she said.
A more positive outlook was provided by Tara MacLean Sweeney, Executive Vice-President for External Affairs at the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC) and then Chair of the Arctic Economic Council (US). She focused on the good e-medicine results in Alaska, and the development of fibre optic cables across the Arctic.
From a business perspective, long distances, small communities, and the extreme climate can make access to competent labour complicated. Søren Halling, Senior Software Developer and Partner with E7 stated: “Software production is hard. Especially in the Arctic”. Often they struggle to recruit the specialists they need, however, there are also benefits to developing software in a small “laboratory” community such as the Faroe Islands.
Olavur Ellefsen, an ICT entrepreneur in the Faroe Islands since 1996 and currently working for Schlumberger, underlined the importance of local ownership and leadership in the development of ICT solutions for the best results. This requires support from both local and national politicians across the Arctic.