Managing SIRENEN: Maintaining both a technological system and public trust

Conference paper

Sandbukt, Sunniva (2023) Managing SIRENEN: Maintaining both a technological system and public trust , presented at ECREA 7th International Crisis Communication Conference, Gothenburg, Sweden, 5-7 October 2023.

In April 2023, the Danish Emergency Management Agency (BRS) launched Denmark’s new mobile-based public warning system, SIRENEN. The new system uses cell-broadcast technology, supplementing the existing 1078 emergency sirens in the country, and replacing the voluntary ‘Mobilvarsling’ app. The new system will be managed by a consortium of government authorities led by BRS. This case ethnographically follows these actors as well as other stakeholder groups through the launch of the new system, its first nation-wide test in May 2023, and the following months of establishing daily operational routines. Rather than treating this new system as a routine technological modernization of a central social infrastructure, this case centres the practical and political work of the various people engaged in making the system both technically operational, as well as publicly acceptable. In other words, it explores how this process involves not just technical, but also political change, and ultimately changes in the relations between citizens and the state. Drawing on existing research on the digital state in a Scandinavian context, the paper illustrates how managing a digital public warning system is not just a technological challenge, but also a careful process of maintaining public trust.

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