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Enablement besides Constraints: Human Security and a Cyber Multi-disciplinary Framework in the European High North (ECoHuCy)

(January 2017 – December 2019)

Digitalisation is changing societies and human activities rapidly in the European High North. National and regional policies aim at facilitating the digital development and/or mitigating its potentially harmful effects, but give little attention to the interests and needs of people and communities experiencing it. The policies developed in national or regional capitals are aimed at sustaining the overall economic growth, creating cost-efficiency gains or enhancing national security. Instead, people and communities living in the “developing regions” within the countries are treated mostly as objects of development whose lives are to be improved through digitisation.

This research project claims that the primary aim of digitalisation and cybersecurity policies should be the advancement of human wellbeing. In order to justify the claim, it scrutinises digitalisation and cybersecurity from the human security perspective. Its empirical focus is on the European High North which particular characteristics – delicate balance between the nature and human practices, vast distances, sparse and ageing population, limited resources and infrastructures, harsh climate, vulnerability in the face of environmental threats – have only partially been recognised in the national frameworks of Finland, Sweden and Norway. Alongside scrutinising the effects of top down policies facilitating and securing digitalisation, the research project interacts with people and communities in the region to find out their associated needs, interests and fears. The aim is to make bottom up influence possible through knowledge production and dissemination.

The project seeks to depict both positive (enabling) and negative (threatening) potentials residing in the digital development in the European High North. It focuses on finding ways to reinforce the positive potentials while diluting the negative ones. It highlights societal cleavages which digitalisation of society brings forth or intensifies while suggesting ways and means to bridge them. In the process, it treats people and communities living in the region as both objects and subjects of digitalisation. It also strives to redefine cybersecurity from the human security perspective as well as to incorporate cyber issues into the human security agenda.

Research task

to individualise and explain cybersecurity when it comes to mitigating threats but also to empowering both individuals and communities in the European High North to cope with socio-politico-legal, economic and environmental challenges.

Questions addressed

  • In which aspects the impact of digitalisation in the European High North has been either positive (enabling) or negative (threatening) or there has been no impact – if so, why and how?
  • Are the people and communities participating in the decision making concerning digitalisation – both the access to and the nature of digital products and services?
  • What kind of potentials (both positive and negative) reside in digitalisation for the people and communities?
  • What kind of development is welcomed by the people and communities? What kind of development they are trying to act against? What kind of digital products and services are or would be required by them and for which reasons and purposes?
  • How can the interconnectedness of environmental threats and cybersecurity be identified, managed and regulated?
  • What is the human security perspective to cybersecurity? How can it incorporate the dominating (1) technical and (2) national cyber security perspectives and what does it add in or develop as a substitute to the aspects of the aforementioned perspectives?
  • What do the prevailing concerns of human security – freedom from fear and freedom from want – entail in the digital environment?
  • How to incorporate cybersecurity and the protection of privacy and individual’s rights so that they reinforce one another instead of being perceived as a trade-off, a fundamental contradiction or a balancing act?What is the role of state governments, regional administration, (trans-/inter)national organisations, businesses and non-governmental organisations in protecting human security online? What is the role of individuals and communities
  • How can the basing of societal cybersecurity on a regional foundation widen security thinking and increase potentials for acting in ways that support human security online?

Main activities

  • Research and knowledge production with a regional focus
  • Establishing an active research network around the topic
  • Scholars-Stakeholders dialogue e.g. field studies, interviews and workshops
  • Guest lectures
  • Seminars and workshops
  • Maintaining a project website

Main outcomes

  • Scientific articles in international refereed journals (favouring open access)
  • A synthesis report with policy recommendations
  • A possible edited volume (if feasible) compiling the findings of the overall project
  • Articles in popular magazines, newspapers and online
  • Academic presentations in international conferences

Project partners

  • Northern Institute of Environmental and Minority Law, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland
  • UiT – The Arctic University of Norway
  • Swansea University (UK)
  • The Institute for Security and Development Policy (SWE)

Project duration

January 2017 – December 2019 (36 months)

Project staff

Kamrul Hossain (Principle Investigator)
Mirva Salminen 
Marcin Dymet