|Issue:||Europe I 2011|
|Topic:||ICT and its role in Denmark|
|Title:||Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation|
Charlotte Sahl-Madsen is the Danish Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation; she had extensive experience in various industries before her political appointment, including as Head of R&D and Head of VisionLab at toy manufacturer LEGO, CEO of Danfoss Universe and President of the Universe Foundation. Since taking on her ministerial position, Ms Sahl-Madsen has worked tirelessly to promote and stimulate economic growth. Key policies include focusing on education that matches the needs of both society and industry; the promotion of digitalisation opportunities; increasing public-private cooperation; and promoting and utilising the advantages of increased globalisation, for example, in the education and research sector. Ms. Charlotte Sahl-Madsen studied at various international business schools, including Executive Education, Harvard Business School, USA; and read Law at the University of Aarhus (not completed).
Mobile technology plays an important part in Denmark’s society and industry alike; Danes purchase public transport tickets via SMS or check in for a flight – all with the aid of a mobile phone. Denmark’s agenda for growth emphasises ICT, research, innovation and digitalisation. In Denmark, ICT is intensively used to give citizens access to government services; in the welfare and health sectors the export of Denmark’s innovative welfare technology and services earned Danish developers approximately €2.4 billion in 2008.
In Denmark, and Scandinavia as a whole, mobile technology and its benefits play an important part in society and industry alike. We can purchase public transport tickets via SMS or check in for a flight – all with the aid of a mobile phone. The face of mobile information and applications is constantly changing and we must embrace this change. In 2009, 90 per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds were using their mobiles as their primary alarm clock. In the same year, only 11 per cent of mobile phone owners were utilising mobile payment options. There is clearly room for improvement. We must look to the advantages that mobile technology and ICT in general can offer us. Denmark faces a number of challenges. We too have not remained immune to the global economic downturn. Many years of growth have levelled out and public finances have been impacted. The Danish government has rallied and looked to all resources to help set a new political agenda focused on renewing growth. We must look to all solutions, including ICT, to regain any ground lost during the financial slump. The Danish government laid a new foundation for its policy in February 2010 with research, innovation and digitalisation playing a key role in stimulating growth. We regard digitalisation as a driving force for innovation and thus for renewed growth and competitiveness. It improves production and business processes and also provides new, improved products and services. ICT is not just crucial for economic growth, but also for solving our social challenges. For example, additional ICT-based welfare technology in the health sector can be instrumental in meeting the demographic development. The implementation of ICT in the welfare sector is seen as one of the key requirements for streamlining the public sector. The Danish government allocated €400 million in 2008 for Investments in Public Welfare Technology. These funds will be invested in numerous projects until 2015. It will not only increase efficiency in the public sector but also offer more user-friendly solutions to residents. For example, in my hometown region of Southern Jutland, a local municipal project is providing a number of care services to elderly residents via video-link over the Internet rather than in-person visits. And these kind of ICT-based solutions are not beyond the reach of our more senior residents. For it is important to not only introduce innovative, productive technology but also to educate people in its applications. I recently visited one of the many data information centres across the country, where elderly residents can learn about emails, spreadsheets and even new social media. I must say, their abilities would put young people to shame. Internet use among 60- to 74-year-olds has risen to 65 per cent in the last two years, compared to 54 per cent in 2008. If our citizens are willing to use this technology, then we as politicians must not rest on our laurels when it comes to expanding future ICT possibilities. The Danish government remains committed to ICT research as a viable way of stimulating growth. In the public sector in 2008, approximately €103 million was spent on ICT research and development – the equivalent of at least five per cent of public R&D expenditure. Danish ICT researchers consistently provide quality results and are highly regarded internationally. Positions of strength range from theoretical computer science, database research, IT security and ‘human/machine interaction’ to mobile communication, robot technology, energy-saving technology, and IT in the health sector. At the same time, we cannot deny the importance of collaboration. Many successful projects have arisen from public-private partnerships. The business community spent more than €1 billion in 2007 on R&D in three ICT areas – software integrated in other products; software as an independent product; and hardware. In all, ICT R&D accounted for 25 per cent of the collective private R&D expenditure. As mentioned before, ICT welfare technology has a lot to offer our citizens. Additionally, Danish businesses are creating ICT innovative solutions for this developing market. A new report estimates that the export of Danish welfare technology and services netted approximately €2.4 billion in 2008 – an increase of 30 per cent since 2004 – and that the field employs some 25,000 people. The export potential is expected to increase in line with the demographic development as the public sector represents an attractive development partner for the Danish business community. So what does the future hold for ICT in Denmark? The Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation announced its Digital Growth Work Programme last summer, focusing on the role that government can play in developing world-class infrastructure, digital literacy and applications that offer opportunities to both the public and the business community. A strong and competitive infrastructure is a prerequisite for utilising ICT to create growth and innovation. Our government has therefore set a goal that all – businesses as well as citizens – will have access to an Internet connection of 100Mbit/s by 2020. The goal will be reached by a market-based and technology-neutral approach and is one of the most ambitious in Europe. We are well on the way to achieving that target, with 25 per cent of all households and companies already able to access a 100Mbit/s connection. We are also in the process of drawing up a new strategy for e-Government to promote digital self-service solutions as the first choice for citizens and businesses when dealing with government. So far, our comprehensive approach to e-Government has helped us develop attractive digital applications, some of which have a most impressive take-up. For example, more than 3.2 million out of 5.5 million Danes have used the self-service facilities of the tax authority’s website during the last year. In the field of digitilisation, as in other policy areas, government must remain responsive to society. By maintaining a constant dialogue with citizens and companies, we strive to understand, support and influence the commercial development of digital infrastructure and services. Our efforts in ICT research and innovation are one of many elements of Denmark’s path to recovery. We must meet the wave of new and exciting technologies head-on, embrace them and incorporate them successfully into our lives. However, collaboration is crucial and it is through collaboration between researchers and the business community, public and private entities, and citizens and the government that we can build a successful future together.