Finnish Forest Research Institute  Metla

Media release 08.08.2005

New Report Urges Greater Use of ICT Innovations in the Forest Sector

Brisbane, Helsinki and Laxenburg, 8 August 2005 —The global forest sector must do more to reap the benefits of information and communication technology (ICT) concludes a new study published today. The report, Information Technology and the Forest Sector, highlights how new technologies help to increase the productivity and the viability of the forest sector, but also affect the very consumption of its products. Such changes are contributing to the movement of production and consumption of forest products away from OECD-countries to Asia and East-Europe.

The study is the final report of a task force established by the International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO) to look at the challenges and opportunities for the global forest sector of the “digital revolution”. In the report, 27 researchers from Europe and North America assess how ICT has affected the forest sector so far, and is likely to do so in the future. The first study of its kind, the publication is launched at the 2005 IUFRO World Congress entitled Forests in the Balance: Linking Tradition and Technology, to take place in Brisbane, Australia, from 8–13 August.

The report shows that ICT helps to increase productivity and viability of the forest sector. For example, e-commerce, greater utilization of modern ICT in logistics and marketing, new products combining ICT and wood fibers, such as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, or lumber products having computer chips, can provide more efficient and new opportunities for the sector.

But ICT is also a challenge for the forest sector. According to Lauri Hetemäki, senior researcher at the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla), in a number of OECD countries ICT development has started to have negative impacts on newsprint consumption, and to some office paper grades as well. These developments mean that the existing projections for communication paper consumption in OECD-countries are not being reached. The market outlook studies need to be updated in order to take into account the ICT impacts, and therefore to provide more realistic projections for the future.

These developments are enhancing the movement of production and consumption of forest products from North America, Finland, Sweden, Japan, and Central and Western Europe to countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Chile, Russia, Poland and the Baltic countries. This trend intensifies the ongoing restructuring of the global forest sector.

The study concludes that the global forest sector is not fully prepared for the ICT impacts, and could do more to realise its benefits. New ICT-led strategies, restructuring, and prioritizing are urgently needed especially in the traditional forestry countries. According to the report’s editors, the mindset in the forest sector in these regions has to change, in order for them to remain viable in the face of the challenges brought by ICT development.

Sten Nilsson, co-editor of the report and deputy director of IIASA, believes that a better environment for new innovative forest sector strategies and businesses could be created and nurtured by national policies. “Governments must enhance research and development in new technologies and their applications and support investments in more-risky, innovatory, long-term projects,” he says.

The study builds awareness of the different routes the future could follow, and helps firms and organizations to understand the relevant ICT trends inside and outside the forestry sector and prepare accordingly. The report also draws attention to issues requiring further research and analysis. The study considers the important linkages between the various forestry subsectors and shows how a driving force in one can determine developments in another. Among the topics covered are:

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