On 6 September, the Nordic and Baltic ministers met in Oslo for the Nordic-Baltic Ministerial Council (MR-DIGITAL) meeting to discuss regional digital cooperation. The meeting resulted in a joint statement on the importance of Nordic-Baltic cooperation on digital solutions. The ministers reaffirmed their commitment to keeping the region at the forefront of digitalisation in Europe and the world, and announced expanding their cooperation.
The ministers have agreed to extend their cooperation to also include digital security, particularly in digital public services. Digital warfare, as seen in Russia's invasion of Ukraine, combined with an increase in global organised cybercrime highlights the need for enhanced cyber resilience in a region that heavily relies on digital services.
“We, the Nordic and Baltic ministers of digitalisation, find it valuable to cooperate and exchange information and experiences in order to ensure reliable digital infrastructures, as well as necessary competence and capacity to recognise and deal with cyber incidents or attacks.”
Following the ministerial meeting, on 7 September, politicians and business leaders were invited to the third edition of the conference "Digital North''. The first conference, on digital cooperation, was held in Oslo in 2017, with the establishment of the ad hoc Nordic-Baltic Ministerial Council (MR-DIGITAL) as a key outcome. In this council, both Nordic and Baltic countries are represented, as part of the shared goal of becoming the world's most digital and sustainable region. The objective of this year’s conference, also in Oslo, was to explore how the region can use digital solutions to promote sustainable development, as well as how we can ensure digitalisation is done in a sustainable and appropriate manner.
Digital security and digital inclusion were among the topics on the agenda. Reiterating ministerial meeting conclusions, Baltic and Nordic ministers emphasised the importance of countries sharing experiences and best practices in system architecture, information storage, digital security, and other digital competencies. The ministers also stated that increased reliance on digital solutions must be accompanied by proper digital inclusion. Not everyone is capable of easily adapting to a more digital way of life. The non-digital population must be considered and assisted, both by helping them keep up with digital advancements and by providing them with alternatives.
Another key topic was the usage of data in providing green digital solutions, and how data sharing can contribute to digital and sustainable goals. Data can assist business leaders and policymakers when deciding which solutions are most effective and sustainable, and was central to discussions on innovative and sustainable fishery and food production, as well as smart cities.
Since its beginning in 2017, MR-DIGITAL has collaborated to find common digital solutions for cross-border cooperation and movement in the region. The strategic programme Cross Border Digital Services Programme will be working to improve mobility and integration throughout the region. The rollout of 5G in the region has also been a focus area of digital cooperation.
The conference concluded with closing remarks by Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Paula Lethomäki. She addressed the competitive advantage of trust and cooperation, and its importance in data sharing. “Trust is needed in order to share data, and data – we have learned – is the fuel of our societies and economies.” Finally, Lethomäki emphasised the three main benefits of Nordic-Baltic cooperation, stating that it allows us to learn from one another, solve problems together, and combined have a stronger voice on the global stage.
Following the conference, Latvian Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, Artūrs Toms Plešs, writes on Facebook:
“A green and digital economy are increasingly recognized as the main driving force in the fight against climate change, sustainable growth, poverty, pollution, health issues, and many more important aspects of our lives. To ensure this, Nordic and Baltic cooperation is needed to create joint digital solutions and more efficient use of resources.
We should also not be afraid to experiment and try new methods and approaches to strengthen and further develop the digital infrastructure capabilities of the North-Baltic region. Combining knowledge and ideas in the Nordic and Baltic region is smart and far-sighted.”