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Can digitalization help overcome spatial injustice in sparsely populated regions?

Many sparsely-populated regions in Europe believe that they are left behind because of a reduced presence of public and private services in the area compared to more densely populated urban areas. The use of new technologies can be a means to provide similar services in rural as in urban areas and to reduce costs. However, when services are becoming digitalized, spatial and social digital divides might increase in regions with ageing populations. Nordregio researchers Linnea Löfving, Timothy Heleniak, and Gustaf Norlén, together with the German research institute ILS researched the topic and published an article “Can digitalization be a tool to overcome spatial injustice in sparsely populated regions? The cases of Digital Västerbotten (Sweden) and Smart Country Side (Germany)”. The research compares two similar cases in Höxter and Lippe in Germany and Västerbotten, where digitalization measures have been used to provide public services to the population in order to reduce inequalities or spatial injustice. “The article concludes the need for an inclusive process and the value of a place-based approach when implementing digitalisation measures. It also points to the fact that the two projects complement each other in showing the path towards a more integrated and inclusive approach for rural digitalization policies. While both successfully helped overcome digital divides in different ways, aspects of both projects would need to be integrated to achieve greater impact. This is mainstreaming of digital solutions into administrative routines (the strength of Digital Västerbotten) and the involvement of civic actors in the development of digital services according to local needs (the strength of the Smart Country Side project),” says Linnea Löfving, Research Fellow at Nordregio. The article was published in the journal European Planning Studies and is a result of the Horizon 2020 project RELOCAL. Read the article here.

Why is Nordic co-operation struggling during the pandemic?

Insights on Covid-19 impacts from the perspectives of cross-border communities During Covid-19, free movement of people and services, and trade across borders has been drastically disrupted. Despite existing co-operation agreements, the Nordic countries took uncoordinated actions to protect themselves. Border closures have heavily affected lives in border communities. How could Nordic co-operation recover after the pandemic by integrating the resilience approach and focusing on cross-border communities? Nordregio – Nordic Institute for Regional Development – launches a report that gives an overview of the situation in Nordic border communities following border closures. Results point to the need for a quick recovery and re-engagement in the Nordic Vision 2030, which states that the Nordic Region is to be the most sustainable and integrated region in the world. Fragility of border communities and Nordic co-operation Since the introduction of the Nordic Passport Union in 1954, long before the establishment of the Schengen Area, Nordic citizens could travel without passports and reside freely in any Nordic country. Virtually borderless societies established strong connections with neighbouring countries. This allowed people to easily access goods, services and larger labour markets across Nordic countries. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries took unilateral actions to protect themselves, moving away from the Nordic Vision. Since then, border closures inflicted significant social, economic and political impact on the border regions: ‘Hard‘ borders re-emerged and border guards were deployed to stop border crossings. Border closures separated families and friends, and disrupted access to work, education and basic services. The closed Svinesund bridge connecting Sweden and Norway and a fence erected in the middle of Victoria Square between Haparanda and Tornio (Sweden-Finland) created a shock reaction in the communities which haven‘t experienced anything like it since World War II. Great economic losses resulted from a sudden absence of border shoppers…

Open call for picture submission

Help Nordregio to visualise life in the Nordic cross-border areas during COVID-19 Do you live in a Nordic cross-border area? Or have you visited any of these areas before or during the pandemic? Maybe you took a bunch of pictures there? The cross-border communities are facing many challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic and closed borders. Life is not the same any more – many have had to change their daily life and work routines. Nordregio researchers are working on several projects in relation to this situation and you will hear about them very soon. To complement the studies and raise awareness about the current challenges, we would like to ask you to contribute with pictures from Nordic cross-border regions. Guidelines for submission: The submitted picture is made by the person who is submitting; One person can submit up to 5 pictures; The pictures are taken in cross-border areas in the Nordics; The caption describes the location, time and situation portrayed; If people are portrayed in the picture, and their face is recognizable, their signed consent to publish a picture should be provided; If people in the picture are under 18 years old, the parents’ signed consent to publish the picture should be provided; The pictures size is min 1 MB – max 16 MB; The picture formats are jpg, jpeg, png. Share your pictures by the 5th of March! The pictures will be used to illustrate Nordregio’s scientific publications and communications material related to the studies. The submissions are not subsidized but a clear reference to the author will be made. If you have any questions or concerns, please, contact vaida.razaityte@nordregio.org

Nordregio is hiring: Head of GIS Department

Nordregio is inviting applications for a senior position as Head of GIS Department. Working at Nordregio means an opportunity to become part of a truly international research environment with a focus on sustainable regional development in the Nordic region and beyond. It offers significant career development potential in terms of enhancing your competences through applied and policy relevant research, achieving an international network of contacts, as well as getting extensive experience in team and project management. You will also get rich opportunities to collaborate with regional and municipal stakeholders in the Nordic countries. Nordregio is currently seeking a new Head of GIS Department with: Expertise in GIS, geo-data, quantitative analysis, and applied research in the field of regional development. Experience in leading a team and managing projects as well as a successful track record in grant applications. Knowledge in geographies and socio-economic trends in the Nordic Region and beyond. A drive for working in teams and in an international applied research environment. Eagerness to present and disseminate results to different stakeholder groups, both orally and in written format. Competences and qualifications As Head of GIS Department, you both lead and manage the GIS-team by planning and organising tasks and activities, communicate with each team member and contribute to their development. You are also a project manager with responsibilities to attract, initiate and lead externally funded research and innovation projects. The geographic scope of your field of interest includes a European and international perspective and expert knowledge in at least one of the Nordic countries. We appreciate abilities in external networking and in communication with stakeholders. Internally we appreciate analytical and creative skills, complemented by abilities to both cooperate and work on your own. For this position, you have at least 6 years of relevant work experience and an extensive network…

How to prepare for Home Alone Christmas 2020?

Are you longing for big family celebrations or secretly feeling relieved and excited to spend this Christmas on your own? In 2020, Christmas is going to be more digital and more local than ever. Nordregio’s Home Alone Christmas Map tells you exactly how to prepare for it. A good internet connection and access to grocery stores are very important success factors when one must spend a “Home Alone” style Christmas this year. For those of you who are saddened by the Christmas restrictions, we have good news. The recent developments in digital solutions allow us to meet and celebrate with family and friends online. And for those of you who are feeling relief when thinking about skipping the celebrations, you can still blame it on the poor broadband connection if you live in some parts of Finland, Norway, the Faroe Islands or Greenland, but do not try this excuse in Denmark, Sweden, Iceland or Åland. You could instead find comfort in endless streaming possibilities for Christmas movies! Due to travel restrictions, near and far, the go-to place this year is our very own, local grocery store – plan for an evening to remember with a local twist. Unless you planned ahead and ordered most food items online. If you are running late, as usual, every kilometer and mile counts when you are rushing to the local store to fight over the last piece of ham. We see no reason to worry for late-runners in most cities across the Nordic Region. But if you are in Iceland or the northern parts of Finland or Sweden – well, we really hope you have planned ahead.  As you can see on the map, Home Alone Christmas conditions vary greatly across the Nordic Region. Take a look at the municipality you live in and…

Matching skills for future labour market

Regions and regional labour markets are facing many challenges such as the ageing population and lack of skills, digitalisation and automation of the economy along with the current Covid-19 crisis. Education and skills are cornerstones for contemporary societies in trying to deal with these changes.  The project “Skills Policies – Building Capacities for Innovative and Resilient Nordic Regions” has analysed how Nordic regions work with skills assessment and anticipation, skills development and skills governance. Which skills will be needed in future? And what are the enabling and hampering factors for skills development? We are happy to share our main findings in a report and a policy brief, including recommendations for policymakers on how to create skills ecosystems for resilient societies. The topic was also featured in the third session of Nordregio Forum this year. The project is a part of the Nordic Thematic Group for Innovative and Resilient Regions 2017-2020.

Apply to the Nordic Arctic Co-operation Programme

The Nordic Arctic Cooperation Programme of the Nordic Council of Ministers has opened up its call for new project applications for financial support in 2021. Deadline for sending in proposals is 1st February 2021 (12:00 CET). The aim of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Arctic Cooperation Programme 2018-2021 is to create sustainable and constructive development in the Arctic and for its people based on the four P’s: planet, peoples, prosperity and partnerships. The programme is administered by Nordregio, with one round of applications per programme years.

Stronger cross-border cooperation after the pandemic

Cross-border activities came dramatically to a halt in the spring of 2020 as a result of measures adopted to limit the spread of the Coronavirus. The ability to work, socialise, do business and use services across borders is an integral part of daily life in border communities all across the Nordic countries and Europe. Since the pandemic hit, border communities have faced extraordinary challenges as national borders were suddenly closed and various other restrictions were put in place. These obstacles were at the centre of attention at an online event “Strengthening cross-border communities: Lessons from Covid-19” organised by Nordregio together with the Bothnian Arc and Svinesund cross-border committees on the 12th November 2020. By Páll Tómas Finnsson, Communications consultant at Finnsson & Co Increased awareness of the value of cross-border cooperation “In times of crisis, it’s always possible to find opportunities,” said Martin Guillermo Ramírez, Secretary General of the Association of European Border Regions. He gave a European perspective on the challenges facing border regions, not only because of the pandemic but also in light of political developments such as Brexit and the increasing nationalism throughout Europe. In his talk, Ramírez emphasised that the current challenges should be regarded as an opportunity to further boost cross-border collaboration in the future. “Many of the nation states in Europe decided to close their borders to contain the pandemic, but in some cases, they were reopened less than 24 hours later because of the high level of interaction in the border areas,” he explained. According to Ramírez, the situation has brought the importance of integrated border communities higher up on both the national and European agendas. “This represents an important turn of events, considering that we started the year with the announcement that there would be a budget reduction for cross-border cooperation in…

Nordregio welcomes a new Director in February!

2021 will bring a new Director for Nordregio, as its current one, Kjell Nilsson, will retire. Rolf Elmér will assume the role, his mandate starting in February. Elmér brings long experience from research institutions, organisations and the private sector. He has worked in top leadership roles at e.g. Carl Bro Energikonsult and Sigma Exallon and Svenskt Näringsliv, working with regional policy in Southern Sweden. For more than eight years, he has facilitated dialogue with politicians to improve labour market and business policies. As a spare-time occupation, Elmér works since 2011 with Miljöbron, a non-profit association that strives to connect students with companies focused on sustainability projects. Rolf Elmér holds a doctorate in physics from Lund University since 1996 and an Executive MBA from the Stockholm School of Economics, obtained in 2004. His interests and competencies are varied, but focused on societal development through sustainable solutions and policy within environment, energy, innovation and digitalisation, Elmér is 54 years old and currently resides in Skåne, outside of Lund, together with his wife, Tina.

Health & Well-being in the Nordic Region

Three reports were launched 21 October, see the links below to the reports and check the webinar recording here:  Are the Nordic people equally healthy and happy? How are digital solutions improving health and well-being? And how can digital solutions in health care and social care contribute to regional development? Although the results of these studies show that the Nordic countries are performing well on many indicators related to health and wellbeing in an international comparison, there are persistent gaps between regions, socio-economic groups and gender. Digitalisation has the potential to overcome some of these gaps by improving accessibility to welfare services and thus wellbeing. Increasing access to fast Internet broadband and to bridge digital divides, are important issues for Nordic governments to address. Otherwise, we run a risk of cementing persisting inequalities in the Nordic countries. Three reports, State of the Nordic Region 2020 – Wellbeing, health and digitalization edition,  Digital Health Care and Social Care – Regional Development Impacts in the Nordic Countries with  In-depth accessibility study – Regional development impacts in the Nordic countries, are initiated and funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers and produced by Nordregio. Digital Health Care and Social Care – Regional Development Impacts in the Nordic Countries, report is also part of the Swedish presidency at the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2018 as a prioritization project Health care and care with distance-spanning technologies (VOPD, Vård och omsorg på distans).

Webbseminarium – Återhämtning efter covid-19 på Åland: Kapital och Kompetensförsörjning

Den 9 september bjöd Ålands landskapsregering in till lärandeseminarium som anordnas i samband med utvärderingarna av Landsbygdsutvecklingsprogrammet (LBU) och Strukturfondsprogrammet. Seminariet med namnet ”Återhämtning efter Covid-19 på Åland: Kapital och kompetensförsörjning” behandlade de ekonomiska och sociala konsekvenserna av Covid-19, hur Åland ska återhämta sig med tanke på kapital och kompetensförsörjning samt vad LBU-programmet och strukturfondsprogrammet 2014-2020 och kommande EU program 2021-2027 kan tillföra? Seminariet hade 65 deltagare och modererades av Elin Slätmo och Jukka Teräs, seniora forskare på Nordregio, och författare av utvärderingarna tillsammans med ÅSUB. Diskussionen inleddes med att Sölve Högman och Susanne Strand, byråchefer på Landskapsregeringen gav sina perspektiv på hur LBU- och strukturfondsprogrammet kan stötta återhämtningen på Åland. Enligt Sölve Högman finns det mycket att lära av jordbrukssektorn eftersom resiliens och återhämtning är en del av vardagen för lantbrukarna som varje år påverkas av väder och klimat. Inom LBU-programmet finns därför stöd inbyggda, även om dessa kan behöva omformas för att bli mer långsiktiga. Susanne Strand, ansvarig för strukturfondsprogrammen, menar att Åland, som alla andra stater och områden med EU-program, i nuläget funderar på kommande programperiod och undersöker vad det finns för behov i regionerna. Huvudtalare för seminariet var Peter Wiklöf från Ålandsbanken. Peter Wiklöf förklarade att Åland vanligtvis brukar klara sig bättre genom kriser än fastlandet Finland eller Sverige men att krisen åsamkad av Covid-19 varit annorlunda. Den åländska arbetsmarknaden, med generellt låg arbetslöshet, har fått uppleva permitteringar, framförallt på grund av minskad turism och minskad efterfrågan på varor. Dessa perspektiv bekräftades senare med statistik från Jouko Kinnunen från Ålands statistik- och utredningsbyrå, ÅSUB, som presenterade siffror på hur Ålands ekonomi och arbetsmarknad påverkats av Covid-19. Några slutsatser är att det är turism- och transportsektorn som har drabbats hårdast och att det framförallt är unga på väg in på arbetsmarknaden som påverkas mest. Både Jouko Kinnunen…

Online workshop 24 September: NordMap in a nutshell

We are happy to invite you to the 3rd online NordMap workshop on 24 September at 9 am, where you will get a change to be introduced to NordMap in a nutshell and get familiar with the tool in 30min. During the workshop we will show you how to: Find the statistics and infographics for regions Create maps and share them with others Find similar regions and municipalities Use time series to see change over time Play around with map colours or design map in favoured spectrum   Sign up here: https://www.lyyti.fi/reg/Online_Workshop_NordMap_2_1296 And visit Nordmap here: http://nordmap.org/        

Online workshop 27 August: Learn to make maps in 30min!

NordMap is easy and free to use web-mapping tool – We are happy to show you online on 27 August at 9am, and it only takes about 30min! Are you studying or working with regional development and planning? Or perhaps just interested in regional and municipal differences when it comes to ageing, employment figures or the economy in the Nordic Region? All topics related to State of the Nordic Region are included in NordMap and data continuously updated. NordMap is easy to use and you don’t need any previous mapping experience. Sign up here: https://www.lyyti.in/Online_Workshop_NORDMAP_5794 And visit Nordmap: http://nordmap.org/          

Healthy and active ageing is more important than ever

In the Decade of Healthy Ageing (2020 – 2030), the COVID-19 crisis raises the stakes of active and healthy ageing practices across the globe. The lock-downs and physical distancing practices challenge daily life as we know it. In our bustling, densely populated cities the changes are enormous. And our older citizens are among those who are most affected. This article shares insights from the ESPON ACPA study in light of the COVID-19 crisis written by Erik van Ossenbruggen &Thijs Fikken (Ecorys Netherlands ) and Mats Stjernberg (Nordregio). The article was originally published in ESPON magazine May 2020. Today, the need for a long-term strategy on active and healthy ageing is more evident than ever. The fact that most regions in Europe have experienced significant population ageing in the last two decades, and that this trend will continue the coming decades, further underlines this notion. In ESPON ACPA researchers analysed policies and practices on active and healthy ageing in eight European cities: Greater Manchester, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Gothenburg, Hengelo, Nantes, Oslo and Zaragoza. Older people and COVID-19 COVID-19 sheds new light on the outcomes of the study. It is evident that the virus hits older people the hardest. For example, in Spain, 90 % of the COVID-19 related victims are 65+ years old. The same applies to other countries studied in ACPA, such as France (91%), The Netherlands (94%), Norway (96% 60+), Sweden (95% 60+) and the United Kingdom (87%). Unfortunately, COVID-19 data on detailed geographical (urban) levels are not readily available for all the stakeholder cities and the relationship with settlement size seems to be complex. In some countries including Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, cities do not seem to be hit disproportionally. Also in France results are mixed: the city regions of Paris, Strasbourg, Lyon and Lille show the country’s highest…

Small rural businesses taking the leap

How do small businesses adapt to the digital transformation? What are the strategies to overcome the digital divide? Nordregio has published a new report and a short policy brief together with illustrative online thematic stories to elaborate on the digital journey’s of small rural businesses, especially in tourism, manufacturing and bioeconomy in the Nordic countries and Latvia. Digitalisation holds considerable potential for rural areas as it offers the promise of overcoming geographical distance, ensuring equal access to opportunity regardless of where people live. At the same time, rural and sparsely populated areas are thought to lag behind their urban counterparts when it comes to the provision of digital infrastructure and the development of digital knowledge and skills. These urban-rural disparities are often referred to as the digital divide and can prevent rural communities from unlocking the opportunities associated with digitalisation. Visit the publications and stories at the The Nordic Thematic Group for Innovative and Resilient Regions 2017-2020 website

Welcome to spring webinars on rural digitalisation and attractiveness

This spring, Nordregio runs a series of webinars focusing on rural digitalisation and more specifically on manufacturing, tourism and bioeconomy. At the beginning of April, we shift to Rural Attractiveness: What makes some regions thrive and succeed when the general narrative on rural areas seems to be the opposite? Join to find out! Under the Events page, you will find more information and can sign up. Webinar series on digitalisation: 10, 17, 24 & 31th March: Digitalisation is often described as a global megatrend and is set to transform all elements of our economy, government and society. But what exactly does that mean at the local level? What are the implications for communities, businesses? What challenges are on the horizon? What are the opportunities and how can we make the most of these? And how should policy makers respond? Throughout March, Nordregio researchers will be joined by practitioners and experts in the field to explore these questions from a rural perspective. Read more and sign up A Webinar on Rural Attractiveness, 2nd April (POSTPONED, new date not set yet): What makes a rural region thrive? Nordregio has discovered 14 stories from the regions where population and employment rates are growing along with life satisfaction and pride to belong. The usual narrative on the rural regions tends to be the opposite. Join the webinar to hear from both the regions and researchers about what these municipalities and regions did differently.

Open call for regions: Experts are ready to support you in e-health solutions!

Nordregio is a part of VOPD project (Health care and care with distance-spanning technologies, e-health and digitalisation) and now it is time for the second open call for regions and to introduce the new publication: 2nd call for regions, municipalities and their healthcare and social care service providers We have experts ready to support you in your implementation of distance-spanning solutions! We are looking for you that aim to develop your service model to offer healthcare and social care services closer to or in the citizens own homes through distance-spanning solutions. The call will open from the 24th of January 2020 to the 28th of February 2020. If you are a private or public service provider of healthcare and/or social care you are welcome to apply for support. Read more from the official website: https://www.healthcareatdistance.com/open-calls/ New publication is out: 24 practical distance-spanning solutions for healthcare and social care Our new publication Healthcare and care through distance-spanning solutions contains 24 practical examples from the Nordic region. What they have in common is that they are implemented, available for the population locally – and proven to work. Another distinguishing feature of these solutions is that they are a collection of digital services that make a big difference to many people around the Nordic region. All 27 million inhabitants in the Nordic region come at some point in contact with one of these solutions, either personally, through a relative or someone else in their vicinity. The publication is primarily aimed at decision-makers at different levels, but it can be read by anyone interested in the effects of digital solutions on healthcare and care. The publication is available in English and Swedish, read more from the project website: https://nordicwelfare.org/publikationer/distance-solutions/

Digital services bring equality to Västerbotten municipalities

Location matters. Where one is born and raised still determines to a considerable extent one’s opportunities and constrictions for living. Inequalities among regions within the EU have been growing since the 2008 economic crisis. The EU funded RELOCAL project (Resituating the local in cohesion and territorial development) has studied 33 cases around Europe to understand what effect local initiatives can have on regional inequalities or “spatial (in)justice”. As a part of the project Nordregio studied the Swedish initiative “Digital Västerbotten”, and how digitalization can impact living in rural areas. In Västerbotten County in northern Sweden, the inland municipalities are becoming depopulated and the municipal authorities struggle to provide basic services because of long travel distances and limited resources. This is a very common phenomenon in most Nordic rural areas and there is a general concern that people living in these areas are being “left behind”. The limited resources for the inland municipalities create a situation where the municipalities can’t provide their citizens with the same opportunities as the rest of the region/country, in the RELOCAL project this is an example of “spatial (in)justice”. However, the other side of the coin shows a brighter view: The increasing digitalization of society has opened up new opportunities, and Region Västerbotten is testing new possibilities. Through the regional project “Digital Västerbotten” the municipalities in Västerbotten are sharing resources and exchanging knowledge to use for existing and emerging digital technologies to provide services and equal standard of living for people in all municipalities. The Västerbotten case is interesting in the RELOCAL context since it is the most northern, the largest and the most sparsely populated area of all of the 33 case studies examined in the project. The area consists of 15 municipalities on 55 000 km2 and with 268 000 people, of which almost…

Nordregio presented at OECD meeting on mining regions and cities

The OECD meeting in Skellefteå, Sweden, on mining regions and cities, went beyond a sectoral view to understand how to deliver wellbeing for regions specialised in mining and extractive industries. Central to this is how to ensure a just transition to a climate neutral economy and prepare local workers for digitalisation and automation. It also included a focus on responsible resource development in the arctic and engaging with indigenous peoples on these issues. Research fellow Leneisja Jungsberg presented how local smart specialisation is an approach to build capacity for local authorities dealing with resource-based industries in sparsely populated areas. It is a bottom-up approach engaging local community in questions related to social and demographic development, land-use issues and local economic benefit retention. Karen presented in a session exploring opportunities of utilising bio-economy models and processes in the mining sector. Leneisja Jungsberg previously worked with the REGINA project, an NPA project focusing on regions with large-scale projects that have large impacts on the local communities. Some key issues raised during discussions were: Ensuring diversified economies in the mining communities Considering the related industries – think circular economy Mining companies to become more proactive in “illustrating responsible behaviour Involve and include the stakeholders in the communities in the process Be alert to the growing demand for new minerals and metals for the digitized economy Who benefits and who is responsible in the development of the mines Consider rental fee agreements, royalties etc Development of Skills Responsibilities for social, health, housing and culture services The full programme can be found here.  

New Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers

Former Finnish environment minister and State Secretary Paula Lehtomäki is the new Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers as of Monday March 18. “It really is a unique opportunity,” the new Secretary General stresses. Faith in Nordic co-operation has increased in recent years, both in the Region and beyond. The potential for working more closely together is greater than ever.” A 2017 opinion poll revealed a 90% satisfaction level and 70% support for even closer co-operation. Lehtomäki has experienced the trend at close quarters. “The Nordic family feels like a stable and reliable partner at a time when the rest of the world is less predictable,” she says. Co-operation must be relevant to the people of the Region The Secretary General stresses the importance of work focusing on issues relevant to the people of the Region in both the short- and long-term. It is also important to make Nordic values and experiences visible in global arenas. “The political priorities for the Council of Ministers’ budget in 2019 – digitalisation, mobility and international profiling – are in line with what I think the people of the Region expect. We must keep up to date and take advantage of new opportunities to facilitate freedom of movement. We also have a duty to share our knowledge and experiences with the rest of the world.” Paula Lehtomäki is the first woman and the youngest person ever to hold the post of Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers.