• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Opinion
'Sweden's lead as tech nation could fade away'
Sweden's Spotify is a tech giant but can the nation keep up with other digitalization opportunities? Photo: Pontus Lindahl/TT

'Sweden's lead as tech nation could fade away'

The Local · 29 Dec 2015, 10:15

Published: 29 Dec 2015 06:22 GMT+01:00
Updated: 29 Dec 2015 10:15 GMT+01:00

To ensure Sweden gets the best out of future digitalization opportunities, the country's legislation urgently needs to be updated, writes Swedish economist Mårten Blix. 

Housing and IT Minister Mehmet Kaplan recently received the government's Digitalization Commission's report in his inbox. It raises strategic issues for the future of Sweden. But the real tools to make any changes lie with other ministries, especially the finance and justice ministries. 

Legislation that set the foundations to take advantage of the benefits of digitalization is far behind. The issues at stake pose big questions, including how many new jobs will be created compared to those that disappear through automation. 

To avoid tax hikes in municipalities, the pressure on the efficiency of welfare services is about to increase significantly as the population is ageing. Another concern is red-tape and complex rules for the private sector. There is a serious risk that our advantage as an IT-nation will erode, and it is not primarily about the need for more public funding. 

In order not to miss the opportunities of digitalization to improve prosperity and create new jobs, a concerted effort is required to review the number of laws and regulations which are stuck in an analogue age. 

For that to happen, we need strategic guidance from the highest levels and targeted cooperation between lawyers, experts in the government and in the governmental agencies. 

It also requires a stronger organization of how digitalization issues get handled by government offices in order to facilitate difficult trade-offs and contribute to sustainability. 


Some Swedes are concerned about how their personal data is being used. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Data in all its forms may be the area where the potential benefits of digitalization are most underutilized - and also where the political obstacles are the greatest. This creates difficulties because the short-term political risks of mistakes can be large, while gains in the form of new jobs only come much later. 

The European Parliament has pushing hard to stop the further use of personal data. It is a stance that has been strengthened by Edward Snowden’s revelations of extensive electronic surveillance. Concerns that sensitive personal data may go astray create fears of a society where the private sphere is not respected and where the limits of what can be commercialized are stretched more and more. 

It is most definitely right to protect personal privacy, but we are doing it the wrong way. It should be possible to create legislation that meets the legitimate concerns of how data is used, but at the same time makes it possible to take advantage of the potential that exists in a number of areas. 

READ ALSO: will robots take over your job in Sweden? 

There are, for example, experiences from Denmark which show the great value of open data for businesses and the public sector, which have improved welfare services for citizens as well as providing new services from entrepreneurs and helping authorities make savings. 

Not least in health can our smartphones give us information and advice. The technology already exists. But uncertainty about the legal framework implies is not only big – it is growing. This is particularly the case with regard to the so called General Data Protection Regulation, which was recently negotiated in Brussels. Instead of facilitating innovation and growth, we have ended up with more red tape, high administrative costs and the risk of heavy fines. 

This can certainly create jobs for regulatory experts and compliance officers, but not the productive jobs that Europe needs. It is vital that the the regulation be implemented as pragmatically as possible. Otherwise, the creation of new jobs and digital services will be impeded, such as technology that makes it possible to continue reducing fuel consumption of smart and connected trucks. 

In order to take better advantage of digitalization opportunities, the government should consider: 

- Placing the overall responsibility for digitalization in the Prime Minister's office, with a clear mandate to reform national regulations and also with the power to contribute positively to international negotiations, especially with regard to data. In addition, a chief economist position should be created at the Department of Justice to ease dialogue with other ministries about the rules and regulations concerning digitalization. 

- Urgently give clear mandates to relevant governmental agencies to identify the obstacles and opportunities linked to digitalization in their areas of responsibility. Digitalization affects almost everything, and data protection regulations can directly inhibit new jobs and services. 

Story continues below…

New organization on its own will not be enough to create constructive rules and reach decisions, but in the same way that the framework for fiscal policy helped budget discipline, it will become easier for political institutions to make the necessary trade-offs. On the one hand, this includes the need for protection, which limits the access and usage of data, and on the other hand, it includes measures which allow digitalization to provide better conditions for growth in the longer term. 

We are now facing a choice that decides how great the benefits from digitalization will be, and if we can improve welfare services without tax increases. 

We can choose to create new jobs and services tailored around digitalization in Sweden, rather than later being forced to import technological solutions made in Silicon Valley.

This is a shortened, translated version of a debate article which originally appeared in Sweden's Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.

Mårten Blix has a PhD in Economics and is a guest researcher at the Swedish Research Institute of Industrial Economics. He is a former secretary in the Commission on the Future of Sweden. 

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Today's headlines
Record number of drowning deaths in Sweden this year
Linus Magnusson och Ester Meijer, life guards at Skanör beach in southern Sweden last year. Photo: Andreas Hillergren/TT

More people have drowned in Sweden so far this year than in any other year this century. The good weather is getting the blame.

Presented by American Express
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
File photo: Pixabay

Getting ready to jet off on summer holidays? Be sure to check out these tips and tricks for avoiding unnecessary headaches between packing and relaxing.

Pupils' school photo Nazi salute 'wasn't criminal'
The harbour in Simrishamn, close to where the incident took place. Photo: Jorchr/Wikimedia Commons

Four high school students who performed a Nazi salute in a school photo have had their convictions for inciting racial hatred quashed by an appeal court.

Opinion
'We don't know how Brexit will affect our time in Sweden'
Sweden-based Brit Sarah Campbell, left. Photo: Private & AP Photo/Tim Ireland

One month after the Brexit referendum Sarah Campbell, a British reader based in Uppsala, pens a love letter to her European Union.

Royal husband: 'Britain should not leave the EU'
Sweden's Princess Madeleine and her British-American husband Chris O'Neill. Photo: Mikael Fritzon/TT

What does this British-American husband of a Swedish princess think of Brexit and Hillary Clinton?

This Swede is the world's best mosquito catcher
Kristoffer Ekersund. Photo: Private & Johan Nilsson/TT

Yes, there is such a thing as the world championship in mosquito killing.

Which of these two Swedes is Vincent van Gogh's lost twin?
Ivar Arpi, a self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh and Petter Samuelson. Photo: Tomlin Studio & Private

Question: What is even more bizarre than a Swede who really, really looks like Vincent van Gogh? Answer: TWO Swedes who look like Vincent van Gogh.

Date set for verdict in asylum home murder trial in Sweden
The accused in court with a member of his legal team. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

The trial of a man accused of killing a worker at a home for young refugees earlier this year has ended.

High security as Orlando top of mind at Stockholm Pride
This man might not actually be a police officer. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT

Nothing is being left to chance, organizers insist.

Fired Ericsson boss to get millions in payouts
Hans Vestberg of Ericsson. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson has fired its long-standing CEO Hans Vestberg, but said he will receive a severance package amounting to millions of kronor.

Sponsored Article
What can newcomers learn about Sweden at Almedalen?
National
Sweden's Hollywood star Alicia Vikander puts her pen in the bottle
Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
Gallery
People-watching: July 22nd-24th
The Local Voices
The Jewish Syrian who dreams of rebuilding his country
Blog updates

22 July

After the horror, carry on regardless (Globally Local) »

"This time last week, we were just digesting the horror of the Nice killings, in which…" READ »

 

11 July

Swedish quizzes (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I have created some quizzes you can take online to test your Swedish skills. Here…" READ »

 
 
 
National
Watch this Swedish weather host leave his fly open... on live TV
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: Where Swedes go to work (and play)
The Local Voices
'I fled war in Syria. I never expected to be beaten in Sweden'
National
WATCH: Asylum seeker brutally beaten by Swedish bus driver
Technology
Why everyone is talking about Sweden's GTA pride parade
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
EU hits truck cartel with record price fixing fine
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Society
OPINION: Why Sweden is the most extreme country in the world
The Local Voices
'There is equality in accommodation in Sweden: Everyone is suffering'
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
Gallery
Property of the week: Gräsö, Östhammar
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Gallery
People-watching: July 15th-17th
National
How to make sure you're not caught out by Sweden's old bank notes
Sponsored Article
'Sweden's Lauryn Hill' touches the country's musical soul
Business & Money
Why Sweden has been named the most innovative country in Europe
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
Terror attack: what should you do?
National
French expat on the moment he was assaulted by a Stockholm bouncer
Sponsored Article
Local guide: the best of Berlin
Technology
Gunman? Nah, smartphone Swede
Sponsored Article
Why you need a EuroBonus American Express Card
The Local Voices
'If the war in Syria ended today, would you go back?'
The Local Voices
‘I feel like I’m living in a grave!’
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's Princess Victoria celebrates 39th birthday
Gallery
People-watching: July 13th
National
Swedes discover surprise mountain
Politics
What Sweden's home secretary thinks of Britain's new PM
Gallery
Property of the week: Smedjebacken, Dalarna
The Local Voices
'Even xenophobic Swedes can be polite’
Politics
WATCH: A very Swedish take on Brexit...
National
Swede's fury at Daily Mail's Bråvalla 'lies'
Gallery
People-watching: July 8th-10th
National
Sweden and Denmark trolled each other on Twitter and it's hilarious
The Local Voices
'The best time to be smuggled to Europe is August 20th, 2015'
The Local Voices
Swedes: Stop obsessing over your material life and start talking to strangers
3,347
jobs available