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The Nordic region – not cheaper, but smarter?

| By Berit Kvam

Smart solutions are often digital. Digitalisation is central to how society develops and it affects our lives in completely new ways. How does this development work in practice and how is the Nordic region contributing? There are several questions: Can the future become too smart? Do we need to pose more questions? Discuss more?

All of the Nordic countries are writing reports on the opportunities presented by digitalisation. When Norwegians receive their tax returns ready filled in by the tax authority, we consider it to be a good thing, we only need to check that the information is correct.

“We have e-government expertise. No other country beats us when it comes to tax returns for instance,” says Norway’s Minister of Nordic Cooperation Elisabeth Vik Aspaker in this month’s Portrait. Our introduction ‘Cycling into the future’ shows that all of the countries have big ambitions. We also look at what digitalisation actually means.

The Nordic Labour Journal has visited the Danish Solbjerg nursing home, where staff are living through a digital revolution. When planning and communication becomes digital, it makes it possible to spend more time with the residents, services can be better tailored to the individual and it becomes easier for the residents to find out about activities and food plans. This is one example of how Denmark think they might secure the welfare services.

Driverless busses are Finland’s best example of how digitalisation is taking off in the transport sector. Although the future is not quite here yet. The drivers are still needed. The Minister of Transport Anne Berner has focused on digitalisation since day one in her job. As the head of the Nordic cooperation she feels digitalisation is the area where the Nordics can be at the forefront also internationally, and Finland can spearhead developments in transport. 

Digitalisation knows no borders. Cooperation is only a question of ability and willingness, and of who benefits. A small example of cross-border cooperation is the Finnish-Swedish project aimed at helping small businesses in the Swedish and Finnish archipelago. Those behind the project want to find new knowledge and create cooperation clusters to share resources and learn from each other.

It is a fast-paced development. It is in our nature to constantly look for new opportunities and better solutions. This also goes for the digital development. Perhaps that is why critical questions are now being asked about whether the smart development is nothing but smart. 

“Digitalisation is being taken for granted, but there is little discussion about what it really is about,” says Malin Granath who recently defended her thesis on the topic at the University of Linköping. 

“It is time to put it into context, to discuss who we are doing it for and how it can be done,” she says and asks: Are we sure technology is always useful?

Nordic countries are at the cutting edge and want to be in the lead. It is important that the debate happens in parallel with developments.

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