Digitalisation is rapidly changing the availability of information and services online. This is accompanied by cutbacks to physical services in an attempt to save costs and increase efficiency. Digital skills have thus become critical to accessing and benefiting from developments in the digital age. This may have implications for social inclusion in geographically peripheral and sparsely populated areas such as the European High North (EHN). To address this, we used a modified framework of human and cybersecurity. Analysis of our fieldwork data indicated that this framework supports some of the key insights in the literature on digital divides in rural areas. Firstly, digitalisation is seen as highly beneficial to the EHN because it enables people to live, study and work in peripheral areas. Secondly, people distinguish between different uses of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Some services, such as online banking, are perceived as more beneficial but also more complex than others. Thirdly, younger family members are an important resource to many elderly people when using digital technologies. Lastly, not all services are fully accessible, especially for people with visual impairments. Additionally, the provision of services in Sámi languages is often not prioritised. Overall, our findings show that digitalisation provides new solutions and opportunities that are crucial in remote areas like the EHN. However, unless its limitations are seriously considered, sections of the population may be excluded from its full benefits.
|University of Lapland, Arctic Centre, the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law