The importance of the Arctic region is growing globally. Well-functioning communication networks and services are a lifeline for human activities and a prerequisite for economic development in the region. That´s why we must put more focus on finding common solutions in the Arctic connectivity.
Electronic communication services improve safety and quality of life for those who live in or visit the Arctic. Access to broadband facilitates e-learning, enables the development of digital health and social services, and allows access to media.
Connectivity is one of the top priorities of the Finnish Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2017–2019. And we do our best to ensure that our intentions codified in the strategy are turned into concrete actions.
Our aim is to bring prosperity, sustainable economic development and social progress to Arctic inhabitants and communities.
Finland will continue the Arctic Council’s work on telecommunications, exploring ways to enhance the connectivity and availability of broadband services in the Arctic. This work will take into account the needs of indigenous peoples, local communities and businesses, tourism, and researchers. The potential communications technologies include satellite connections, mobile communications systems, low-bandwidth transmission and sea cables.
A concrete example Finland has put forward is the North-East Data Cable project. Building a data cable from Europe to Asia via the North-East Passage would provide an optimal solution for better connectivity.
Arctic transport and safety
In transport, while digitalisation and navigation will provide new opportunities for Arctic transport and safety, we also face a variety of challenges that are specific to the Arctic. For instance, maritime navigation requires up-to-date awareness of ice conditions and realization of autonomous transport requires functioning satellite systems and navigation in arctic latitudes.
Concrete actions have already been taken. For instance, IMO Polar Code provides safety and environmental standards for shipping in the Arctic. In February Finland will organize an international conference to enhance safe ice navigation and harmonized implementation of the Polar Code in Arctic waters.
Satellite navigation is increasingly often the pillar of various transport modes, and intelligent transport based on it is on the rise in all modes of transport. It is important that the same efficient and reliable navigation technology is available in the Arctic as at lower latitudes. Safer positioning and more reliable location data provide a basis for improving the quality of life and safety and for a new kind of environmental protection as well.
We have already joint forces to find smarter solutions for intelligent transport that take into account the characteristics of Arctic environment. We are collaborating by supporting the Aurora cross border testing area. The intelligent arctic road Aurora is part of the Aurora Borealis Corridor, which starts in Kolari, Finland and ends in Tromsø. Testers from all over the world are now welcomed to try out new technology in the fields of automated driving and infrastructure.
The Arctic railway study
Another joint project between Finland and Norway is the Arctic railway study. Finnish and Norwegian transport authorities are asked to explore the possibilities of constructing the Arctic railway and to examine its profitability. The purpose of the assignment is to examine the possible rail lines, find out what the users need and identify a possible business model and demand potential. The work should be completed by the end February 2018.
The Arctic is developing into an important hub of the twenty-first century. The economic potential of the region should be harnessed in a way that brings prosperity to, and guarantees the livelihood and social progress of, Arctic inhabitants and communities.
Finally, sustainability must always set the stage when exploring common solutions in the Arctic.
Minister of Transport and Communications
This blog is an extract from my Op-Ed published earlier in High North News.