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Digitalisation within the public sector must be improved

A digital highway.

Digitalisation is fast in society at large, but could be faster within the public sector.

Despite the fact that Sweden and Norway are top of the class when it comes to digitalisation in general, the two countries are far less impressive in the case of digitalisation within the public sector.

I have just written my first scientific article in Norwegian, my native language, an interesting experience in its own right. It was at the invitation of the Norwegian Academy of Technological Sciences that we, John Krogstie from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and I, compared development in Sweden and Norway with regard to digitalisation.

The Nordic countries have well-developed infrastructures, extensive digital know-how and a remarkable capacity for innovation. This, together with an open culture, small differences, high confidence in the public sector, and an inclusive view of people, means that we have the potential to lead the way in the future, too.

The results are not as impressive in the case of digitalisation within the public sector, however, neither in Sweden nor Norway. Here, Sweden came bottom of the OECD ranking of 2019. Even though these two countries top the world ranking within the digitalisation area, there are many areas where continued development is needed.

  • Digital ranking Both Sweden and Norway top the international ranking and need to continue further development to stay in front.
  • Infrastructure Development of the digital infrastructure must be continued such that everyone can have access to at least 1 Gbps internet speed, no matter where they live.
  • Digitalisation of the public sector Neither Sweden nor Norway has developed its public sector in a way that could be expected of countries of our calibre. When it comes to the use of public data to achieve societal innovations in particular, both countries lag behind.
  • Digital know-how Sweden and Norway both need to improve digital know-how amongst their populations when it comes to both general digital know-how and expert digital know-how. The challenges of encouraging development within lifelong learning are greater in Sweden, where those investments that have been made have been far from sufficient.
  • Research and Innovation Both Sweden and Norway possess excellent know-how, good access to research finance and a flourishing innovation climate. However, private investors are far more prevalent in such initiatives in Sweden than in Norway, even though capital is available in Norway, which has given Sweden better opportunities.
  • Digital Leadership Sweden ought to be inspired by Norway and demonstrate greater digital leadership within digitalisation and take political steps to support this development. Digital management means achieving greater efficiencies via relevant, goal-oriented and legally compliant digitalisation.
  • Organisation of Digitalisation Both Sweden and Norway suffer from organisational silo structures when it comes to politics. We are well developed within each respective political area, but we are poor at ministry wide cooperation. Especially where ministries are headed by representatives from different political parties.
A chart.

The Nordic countries top Europe’s rankings when it comes to digitalisation. Finland has long held an unthreatened top position.

If we are to continue to be leaders within the digitalisation area, Sweden and Norway cannot afford to remain solitary entities, we need to leverage our respective strengths and lead further development today via much closer collaboration.

To read: Den digitale hverdagen (In Norwegian)