Digital transformation

International interest in the digitalization of the Swedish forest industry

The relationship between the forest and the field of informatics is growing stronger, and on the international stage, many curious eyes are turning towards Sweden. Umeå-based doctoral student Malaika Torto participated in January at the prestigious HICSS conference in Hawaii to present her paper on the digital transformation of the forest industry.

– When we talk about digitalization, we often think of tech companies like Amazon and rarely consider the digital transformation within traditional industries. The research we conduct within Mistra Digital Forest is seen as something different, innovative, and it sparks significant international curiosity, says Malaika Torto, doctoral student at the Department of Informatics at Umeå University.

Malaika Torto
Malaika Torto, Umeå University

In January 2023, she participated in one of the largest conferences in the research field, HICSS (Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences). The reason for her participation was the article she co-authored with Amanda Kristofferson as part of her doctoral position funded by Mistra Digital Forest.

Malaika Torto is presenting at HICSS, Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.

Interviews provide a unique insight

The article Digitally Transforming in a Traditional Industry: A Senior Management Perspective" focuses on the digital transformation of the forest industry and is based on in-depth interviews with senior executives working closely with digitalization in five major forestry companies. Through these interviews, Malaika explores the driving factors and obstacles in the industry's digital transformation.

– Being able to interview such senior roles as part of Mistra Digital Forest is unique from an international perspective. Such insight is rarely obtained. The interviewees have made it clear that the digital transformation is central and incredibly important for the forestry companies, says Malaika.

Clarity and innovative thinking are crucial

Central conclusions in the article highlight that there is a unique complexity in digitalizing traditional industries, often tied to physical raw materials. Companies need digital strategies and must foster a culture that encourages innovative thinking. While the research focuses on the forest industry, the findings are also relevant for other traditional industries such as mining and, to some extent, healthcare.

– For employees, there is a certain level of uncertainty about what digitalization entails, how their own tasks will be affected, and what the overall transformation means for the company. Increased communication efforts and improved clarity are important in realizing digitalization in the forest industry, says Malaika.

Contributes to a fresh perspective on the forest industry

When Malaika moved from Ghana to Sweden, she knew nothing about the forest industry. The reason she chose Umeå was because they had a master's program in IT Management that particularly appealed to her. In 2021, she began a four-year doctoral position.

– I believe I can benefit from being able to see the forest industry with completely fresh eyes, she concludes.