Annukka Jokipii ja Harri Jalonen, heinäseipäät.

Importance of reliable information in an uncertain world – Continuous cooperation a key factor in crisis management

Tiina Ramsila
Harri Huusko
Comprehensive security and information resilience are hot topics, especially during these times with Russia’s war against Ukraine, an energy crisis and the pandemic. Resilience is usually perceived as securing food, medicine and energy. In today’s world where social media has a role in the dissemination of information, acting on reliable information is key. Crises have become more complicated and sudden, making information resilience a key factor for keeping society functioning during times of crisis.

The IRWIN project, led by the University of Vaasa, explores security resilience in a complex and ever-changing world. It is about ensuring functioning society's decision-making, law-making and governance. This requires the common effort of government, business, research, organisations and civil society members.

– Preparedness must be understood as a duty for society as a whole and as a new and necessary civic competence for the 2020s. In addition to material preparedness, the role of information resilience has to be considered in our current information society. How do we receive information, who is responsible for it and how is it interpreted, says the leader of the project, Professor Annukka Jokipii.

Professor Annukka Jokipii, leader of the research project

– It has never been as easy to produce and spread information as it is now with social media. False information, whether unintentionally or intentionally produced, can find its way to interested parties, says Professor Harri Jalonen.

Jalonen continues by saying that, during a crisis, reliable and correct information is as important as stored grain. Reliable information is a key factor in decision-making.

Information provides situational awareness, which is vital when making decisions about how to influence people’s behaviour. Information resilience protects against false information.

– It is the authorities' task to ensure that the information distribution channels   work, and that the information is up-to-date and reliable. Citizens, on the other hand, need to have both media literacy as well as the ability to apply information, says Research Manager Petri Uusikylä, head of the complexity research group

IRWIN project helps policy-makers understand information resilience and situational awareness, which are needed when making decisions during this era of dis- and misinformation.

Differences in opinion during the Covid-19 pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic tested Finns’ preparedness and information resilience. According to research, the government’s decision-making system and governance mechanisms did not function as expected. Though Finland coped relatively well during the pandemic, there is room for improvement in decision-making and the flow of information.

– Differences of opinion between the government, various ministries and government agencies proved to be a considerable challenge. Conflicting interpretations were visible between the regional government and central government during the early days of the pandemic. In terms of regulation, the main challenges were the relations of the Preparedness Act, Communicable Diseases Act and the Constitution and the powers of authorities and questions of equality between citizens, says Uusikylä.

According to Jokipii, the crisis showed that the regulatory framework is not the most flexible when it comes to exceptional circumstances and requirements.

– The development of legislation requires long-term commitment over several terms of office and strong legislative management. Both need strengthening in Finland, says Jokipii.

– It is not clear which entity/organisation/ is responsible for what information and what restrictions governate the use of information. Not even digitalisation could bring relief to this problem. Quite the opposite; it made the creation of an organized information environment and achieving situational awareness even more difficult, Jokipii continues.

According to the researcher’s, situational awareness requires good interaction between different actors in society.

– The difference between traditional resilience and information resilience is the fact that you cannot produce information to be shelved and used later. Information is not something you transfer from one actor to another. It is an interpretation of events produced through interaction, says Jalonen.

Professor of Social and Healt Management, Harri Jalonen
Director of the Complexity Research Group, Petri Uusikylä.

Information Resilience in a Wicked Environment - IRWIN-project

Information Resilience in a Wicked Environment (IRWIN) is a three-year project (2021-2023), funded by the Academy of Finland, where researchers from the University of Vaasa, the University of Eastern Finland, the Laurea University of Applied Sciences and the National Defence University study information resilience in complex environments.

In the project, the researchers from the University of Vaasa, the Finnish governance system, institutions, as well as governance and management practices, particularly from the perspective of information resilience. The University of Eastern Finland studies the governance of national preparedness, regulating strategies, structures and processes from the perspectives of legislation research and constitution issues. The researchers of Laurea University of Applied Sciences take the perspective of citizens. The researchers at the National Defence University look at the revelation of disinformation, its tools and counterforces as part of information resilience in society.

The participants from the University of Vaasa in the IRWIN project are Annukka Jokipii, Harri Jalonen and Petri Uusikylä, Harri Raisio, Hanna-Kaisa Pernaa, Juha Lindell, Aino Rantamäki and Ville-Pekka Niskanen.

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