Zombies or drones – What is the future for the Arctic?

We can talk about being sustainable and smart until we are green in the face. But how do we achieve it? 

​​​​​​Webinar about smart cities in the North
Webinar: The Smart North - Knowledge, Education and Capacity Building webinar was well attended online, but because of Covid-19 restricions, very few people could be physically present in the room at the university in Bodø. 

So, how does SmartNorth, a project that investigates the scope of and driving forces for the development of participatory governance (PG) practices and their potential effects on sustainable development in High North communities, involve Zombies and drones? 

Th​​e governance paradox

On January 27th, the Hight North Center at the Nord University Business School held a webinar where the prospects of sustainable development for the Arctic regions and High North were discussed. The premise is that the High North is full of unused opportunities. It’s a region of rich natural resources (e.g. fish, oil gas, minerals, tourism potential, transport solutions) that can create potential and opportunities to secure world economic growth. 

However, there are also challenges. The younger generations are moving away from the region and depopulation lowers innovation capacity. There is also an issue of the "governance paradox". Local populations feel that the central government, which is far away, is making the decisions. When it comes to concepts like Smart City initiatives, it is important that they are tailored to the needs of the High North. What works in Central Europe, for example, might not work here. 

Therefore, it is vital to involve citizens in this and include them in the dialogue. 

The Citizen's involvement principle
Citizens: Involving the citizens is vital when it comes to Smart City initiatives. 

Zombies or sustainability? 

One of the presenters was Professor Anatoli Bourmistrov, Head of Department of Economic Analysis and Accounting at the Nord University Business School. He asked, what scenarios are we looking at? Space? Science Fiction? A zombie-like Arctic wasteland? A modern and green and sustainable Smart North?

"How about creating a 

game like Sim City"

His conclusion is that we need scenarios for both city and regional development based on the use of digital technology, so that we can secure involvement of the citizens. He also upheld that the role of visualisation was important here, and that gamification could be of great help. The city of Bodø is currently in the middle of their own Smart City project. How about creating a game like Sim City where the citizens will be able to provide feedback by designing their own version of Bodø? 

Anatoli's question: What are the future scenarios for the Arctic and High North?

Being green is a game​​

And gamification is something that is Bodø takes seriously when it comes to making a smarter and greener city. 

To prevent serious climate change because of higher greenhouse gas emissions, the Smarter Transport Bodø initiative aims to reduce emissions by offering alternatives to private car use. These alternatives need to be so good that people simply do not want to drive. 

"None of your personal data​ is saved to the cloud"

Enter Kobla! This is an app​ that rewards you when you take public transport, your bike or simply walk, instead of using your car. It is integrated with a lot of other services. 

For example: By connection to a weather service, you will get more points for taking your bike on a rainy and windy day than on a sunny day. It can also be integrated with travelling services and map services, so that you can plan and then later see how your greenhouse emissions are, when it comes to transport. 

Gamification: Kobla is an app that rewards green behaviour.

You can also set up teams and compete amongst the teams, and you can get a view of things like who has improved the most. 

And the best part is that none of your personal information is saved in any cloud. Its only saved on your phone, so privacy concerns will not be a factor. 

Flying cell phone masts

Another challenge in more rural parts of the High North is the lack of communication. How do we make people feel safe and protected? Outside of the cities and villages, there is from limited to absolutely no cell phone coverage. Let us say an accident happens in one of these areas. How do we coordinate rescue operations in a good way?

Stein C. Tømmer, senior advisor at Nordkontakt AS​ talked about a very interesting solution involving drones. Big drones! These are the kind of drones that need a runway to take off. They will then fly to the area of the accident, carrying with them cell phone transmitters that you will normally find in your nearest cell phone mast. They can then hover over the perimeter, creating a mobile link that will give the cell phone coverage needed during the operation. They can then fly back after the operation. The drones can stay in the air for over 20 hours at a time. 

Safety: During a crisis cell phone coverage is vital in rural areas. A solution can be drones with cell phone trasmitters. 

The webinar concluded with a panel debate regarding future for Smart Cities and Communities, and questions were asked about what had been covered in the presentations.

Another step towards the future of a smart, safe and sustainable Arctic has been made.