European dialogue on societal security

European dialogue on societal security

What are the challenges and risk factors facing society today? What must we do to prepare ourselves for the challenges we can anticipate – and what about the ones we can’t?

The discussions were lively when societal security experts from finance organisations, end-user groups and different research fields convened in London recently. What elements should be given priority under future research programmes in this field? What threats must be addressed and in which way?

Representatives of all Nordic countries, the Netherlands and the UK took part in the workshop. NordForsk, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) – one of seven research councils in the UK – are looking into future opportunities for cooperation in this area. Do we have any coinciding interests? Are there benefits to be gained from collaborating on a joint, multinational funding announcement on societal security, which is a topic that transcends national borders in so many ways? The workshop provided a forum for further discussing the possibilities, with a focus on cyber security.

Thirty minutes each day on security measures

Angela SasseThe average employee spends on average 30 minutes each day on security, assuming that he or she follows all required authentication protocols in place, explained Professor Angela Sasse from University College London. Many consider this to be a nuisance, taking time they need to do other tasks. The threshold to breaking rules in order to simplify the workday can be low at times. “We must make things easy for the user,” Dr Sasse states. 

But how are the users, or society’s citizens, perceived today, wondered Ivar Johannes Knai from the Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection (DSB). “Are they the passive recipients of security measures provided by increasingly professional institutions, or are they a resource that takes part in the public debate on societal security and how to safeguard it?”

Rapid development

Mr Knai went on to highlight the importance of keeping up with advances in technology. “Are we trying to solve today’s problems using traditional models?”, he asked, referring to preparedness planning carried out in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Oslo and Utøya on 22 July, 2011. “Are we taking a double dose of a ʻmedicine’ already proven ineffective?”

Eivind Hovden from the Research Council of Norway illustrated how difficult it is for research and legislation to keep pace with technological developments. “We can start a research project on iPad usage but by the time the results are in the iPad will be as obsolete as the telefax is today.”

What would we do if Group discussionsthe Internet was down for an entire day? What risk factors are inherent in our use of social media, and in what ways can these media be used as important tools during local and international crises, for instance. Can we anticipate the threats that may be facing us? And if not, what can we do to counter them? The wide range of backgrounds and affiliations among the participants led to many different discussions, and provided considerable input on the potential for future cooperation in this field.


Text and photo: Lisa H. Ekli

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