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Interview: Telecommunications Task Force Co-Chairs

Meet the co-chairs of the Arctic Council's Task Force on Telecommunications Infrastructure in the Arctic.

Q: Please introduce yourself to us. What's your background, and how did you come to be one of the co-chairs of this Task Force?

BO: I am originally Danish, but I moved to Norway as child. My polar interest was awakened already by the time I was seven years old, but my education is in astrophysics and space science. I have worked since 1988 in the Norwegian Space Centre and, since 2006, as its Director General. Norwegian space activities are quite Arctic in their priorities, and with that background I was also part of the National Committee for Polar Research from 2008 to 2013, the last three years as Chair.

The Norwegian Space Centre has developed and acquired satellite infrastructure for ship surveillance in the Arctic, and has focused strongly on issues connected to delivering broadband connectivity to maritime interests north of the regions that are served by satellites in geostationary orbit.

NIELS: Having been operating in the Arctic for more than 25 years, I have lost my heart to this magnificent part of the world. I have had many great experiences in the Arctic, but also seen the huge challenges that exist in this harsh natural environment and in the local communities. I am the head of Polar DTU – the Technical University of Denmark’s Arctic center – with more than 100 engineers and researchers who, on a daily basis, are working with public authorities, private industry and local communities, especially in Greenland. So I do have current knowledge of the relevant Arctic issues, also seen in a global context. With a background as a physicist and geodesist, and as a member of the Directing Board of the National Space Institute – DTU Space, I have good insight into the recently-developed technical possibilities for establishing modern infrastructure in the Arctic, including telecommunications infrastructure. I was therefore very happy when the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked me if I would take part in this Task Force as a co-chair.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about your work as a co-chair of this Task Force?

BO: To be practically involved in developing new infrastructure that will significantly improve the provision of broadband to the far North. I sincerely believe that the different Arctic countries can learn from each other and that national initiatives can be useful for other countries as well.

NIELS: I have always much enjoyed being a part of a group that is working together towards a mutual goal, particularly if this group is international. It is my hope that the Task Force can share common visions and combine efforts across borders to meet the given tasks and put them into a global context.

Q: As you look ahead, what is one of the most challenging questions that you think this Task Force will tackle in the course of its work?

BO: To ensure that our work is strongly supportive to national initiatives, and not a hindrance to them.

NIELS: No doubt that we all share a lot of common user needs in the Arctic, but to meet them in a modern technological way based on public-private partnerships (PPP) with a 20-to-30-year perspective is very exciting and challenging.