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Does Sweden have a digitalisation policy?

Some weeks ago, I was summoned to a meeting with the Swedish National Digitalisation Council, a renowned group of people established by the government to act as a sounding board for the Minister for Digital Development.

I have had the opportunity of working with digitalisation policy for ten years now. It was in 2012 that the Minister for Information and Technology, Anna-Karin Hatt, asked me to lead the government’s Digitalisation Commission and later to be a part of the Digitalisation Council. During this time, six digital development ministers from three different political parties have come and gone. Since 2012, Sweden has had the goal of being “the best in the world at utilising the opportunities created by digitisation” and in various rankings, Sweden often ranks in the top three, even though we rarely take first place.

I often pursue issues related to digital competence, which is one of the most important goals for us to become the best in the world at utilising the opportunities created by digitisation. Universities and university colleges play an important role in developing digital excellence, but all educational actors, from primary and secondary schools to higher vocational education and study associations, have a vital contribution to make in raising the level of general digital competence.

Issues concerning digital inclusion and the digital work environment are also close to my heart, issues where great ambitions are easily expressed, but which entail a long process before the required action is actually taken to achieve the goals. In these times, issues of digital security and integrity are also high on the agenda, because we can easily see that the digital environment is also being attacked in times of political instability in the world.

A common complaint is that the government is not doing enough when it comes to digitalisation. Digitalisation is a complex policy area and it is completely understandable that, for fear of proposing political initiatives or efforts to promote digitalisation, nothing is done at all. Therefore, it is an area that requires a policy and politicians who are familiar with the field. Now, for the first time, we have a digital development minister who comes from the industry. It inspires hope. Khashayar Farmanbar, or ”Khash” as he is often called, obtained a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree and became an IT entrepreneur before entering politics.

An interesting discussion at meetings of the Digitalisation Council concerns the lack of political debate about digitalisation – it is easier to make policy if it is a debatable political matter. Today we do not have a political party that ”opposes” digitalisation. This, combined with the fact that it is a complex area, often makes it difficult to get a complete picture of the digitalisation issues politically, which means that major investments end up becoming conspicuous by their absence.

Digitalisation should preferably be seen as an area to invest in  – it pays off in the long run – and not just be regarded as a cost. This applies to business, the public sector and not least politics.