PhD Project: Towards a sociotechnical resilience for digital infrastructure in times of crises

This research project focuses on the understanding of intra-sector criticality of infrastructure and digital services in critical sectors and how the notion of a sociotechnical resilience may be applied as a response to crises.

“Digital artifacts become increasingly embedded in wider and constantly shifting eco-systems that turn them editable, interactive, reprogrammable and distributed” (Kallinikos et al, 2013). Digital infrastructure may be viewed as the collection of technological and human components, networks, systems and processes that contribute to the functioning of an information system (Tilson et al, 2012). Research on the nature, design and evolution of the infrastructures should capture a socio technical dynamics perspective. This would stem in the identification of digitally enabled infrastructure deployments as comprising human and nonhuman actors that contribute to an information system (Tilson et al, 2010). While deployments vary, a rather concerning case in point is digitally enabled infrastructure deployments that run as backbone or feeder systems for critical infrastructure (CI). Zio descriptively defines critical infrastructure as “…large scale, human-made systems that function interdependently to produce and distribute essential goods (like energy, water and data) and services (transportation, banking, health care) (Zio 2016). It may be considered a fair assumption that the majority (if not all) of critical infrastructures exhibit some level of connectivity and dependency (intra or inter) to one or more digitally enabled infrastructures  which are required for the uninterrupted delivery of essential services . The question must then be, what is critical in fact about critical sector infrastructure? The general trend in cybersecurity practice is that when a system breach or disruption occurs, in reaction, it is to be immediately disabled/disconnected in order to isolate the problem source and curb further escalation?

System downtime is no longer a viable option, and there is an emerging need for these interdependencies and vulnerabilities to be understood, and the implications analysed in a bid to revise and improve upon existing security frameworks, protocols, strategy and procedure. This research project focuses on the understanding of intra-sector criticality of infrastructure and digital services in critical sectors and how the notion of a sociotechnical resilience may be applied as a response to crises.

References 
David Tilson, Kalle Lyytinen, Carsten Sørensen, (2010) Research Commentary—Digital Infrastructures: The Missing IS Research Agenda. Information Systems Research 21(4):748-759.
Kallinikos, J., Aaltonen, A., & Marton, A. (2013). The Ambivalent Ontology of Digital Artifacts. MIS Quarterly, 37(2), 357-370. Retrieved June 5, 2020,
Zio, E. (2016). Critical Infrastructures Vulnerability and Risk Analysis. European Journal for Security Research, 1(2), pp.97-114.

  PhD Project: Towards a sociotechnical resilience for digital infrastructure in times of crises
PhD Fellow Sindisiwe Magutshwa

Project Info

Project Manager: Sindisiwe Magutshwa
Researchers: | Devinder Bahadur Thapa | Jaziar Radianti
Project Period: 2019-2022
Partners: Co-supervisor: Margunn Aannestad