Opening Address at Digital North

Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen's opening address at the Nordic-Baltic Ministerial Conference on Digitalisation.

Colleagues, friends, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to open this Nordic-Baltic conference on digitalisation.

Let me start by thanking all of you for coming to Oslo. And a warm welcome to the many who are following us online.

I would also like to thank Nordic Innovation, the Nordic Council of Ministers and the team at the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation for making this conference possible.

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Our countries are digital frontrunners. You, the audience, are the leaders who have made us frontrunners, in both the public and the private sector.

Our strong digital position must not be taken for granted. We have reason to be pleased with some of our achievements.

But I believe that it is clear to all of us that we must work even harder to maintain and develop our digital competitive advantage.

That is why we are here today. Closer cooperation, and a bit of friendly competition, can stimulate innovation, create better functioning markets and deliver better solutions for our citizens and companies.

This year, Norway holds the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. We are also responsible for coordinating Nordic-Baltic cooperation.

We have organised our presidency programme across three main thematic areas: the Nordic region in transition, the Nordic region in Europe and the Nordic region in the world.

Our ambition is to address three fundamental questions where digitalisation plays a major role:

  • How can we increase our competitiveness while leading the transition to greener economies?
  • How can we create more inclusive societies for our citizens?
  • And how can Nordic cooperation contribute to a strong and united Europe?

Obviously, I am not going to attempt to answer these questions here and now. However, I will offer a few observations.

First of all, I am convinced that we need more, not less cooperation. Our countries are stronger together.

Consider the economic realities. Twenty per cent of Norway's exports from land-based industries go to other Nordic countries. Sweden exports as much to five million Norwegians as to eighty million Germans. The same applies in relation to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. No markets are more important to us than those of our own region.

Secondly, digitalisation permeates all aspects of societies in transformation. In the fairly recent past, 5G, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence seemed to belong to a distant future. Today, we know that this future has already arrived. The pace is constantly increasing. Our challenge is to make the best possible use of the digital toolbox.

We should not let fear of the future take hold. Digitalisation can create new jobs and connect our societies in new and better ways. Cross-border dialogues between citizens, businesses and governments are more important than ever.

My third and final observation is that I believe in an inclusive digital future. We live our lives in integrated economies.

We create growth by moving and trading freely. We need digital solutions that support this. Solutions that bring us closer together by providing better services to citizens and businesses.

We seek closer regional digital cooperation, not in order to isolate ourselves, but because we want to support and inspire further European cooperation.

The European Union deserves high praise for achievements in this field over the past few years. Norway is an active participant in the development of the digital single market.

We hope that that Nordic-Baltic cooperation will help to remove the remaining obstacles to a digitally integrated Europe.

And I have no doubt that Estonia will do a stellar job in this regard when they take up the presidency of the European Union in July. Few countries are more innovative and forward-looking than Estonia – in both public and private sectors.

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Dear friends,

We have a lot of ground to cover today. Yet most of our work will start tomorrow. Let us make good use of the contacts, ideas and shared ambitions that develop during this conference.

On that note, it is a great pleasure to introduce today's moderator, Mr Pellegrino Riccardi. I am confident that he will guide us skilfully throughout the day as we move towards an even more exciting future in the Digital North.

Thank you.