Speech at EuroDIG

Speech by Prime Minister Erna Solberg at EuroDIG in Tallinn/Estonia, 6 June 2017.

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Minister(s), ladies and gentlemen,

It’s a pleasure to be here in Tallinn.

In just a few weeks’ time, Estonia will take up the rotating EU presidency.

And despite the fact that you are doing so six months ahead of schedule, you are still hosting this important event today.

This is another testament to how energetic, engaged and ambitious Estonia is.

Your leadership in the digital sphere is visible, timely and much needed.

I will return to the topic of Estonia in a little while. For now I’ll just state the obvious:

The digital agenda is in the very best of hands for the coming months!

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Internet is arguably the most important infrastructure in the world.

It is the infrastructure that all other infrastructures depend on.

It has changed the way we live and work.

It has changed our views on what is possible, and it is a part of the solution to all the greatest challenges of our time.

How, and by whom, the Internet is governed is therefore of major importance.

It affects our economy and our national and global security.

It will affect the lives of coming generations.

That is why Internet governance issues are so important and why we need to shape the future of the Internet together.

I believe that we have a long-term, strategic interest in maintaining a robust, secure, open and free Internet.

Developing the international norms and rules that will shape the framework of cyberspace requires an active engagement.

Norway is one of the most digitised countries in the world.

The development of the Internet, and of digital services and products, mainly takes place in the private sector.

My Government attaches importance to avoiding unnecessary regulations and rules.

Unnecessary regulation hinders development and innovation.

Innovative individuals and companies can literally change the world.

Remember, it is only ten years since the first iPhone was introduced.

We will see many more inventions as important as iPhones in our lifetime.

Perhaps our children will never need to learn how to drive? In any case, I don’t think people will have to struggle with parallel parking for much longer!

It is difficult to predict exactly which digital services and products we will take for granted in a few years from now.

We know quite a lot about what is possible.

But we are also getting used to seeing new realities that exceed most people’s wildest dreams.

Innovation and technological development inspire and give grounds for optimism.

But we also need to be vigilant.

We need to ensure the safety of our citizens.

This also applies to the Internet.

New and very serious threats have emerged in parallel with the digital revolution.

Cyber threats are on the rise.

Digital network operations, the manipulation of digital information and the use of malware by both state and non-state actors are threatening our way of life.

Information sharing between states and between the public and private sector is crucial for enabling us to respond to these threats.

No country can address these threats alone, but all countries can have mechanisms in place to deal with cyber incidents.

There is no single global institution governing the Internet today.

Furthermore, there are no international instruments regulating how states are to deal with challenges stemming from the Internet.

We need to be aware of the fine lines between what is technologically possible to achieve, what can be regulated, and what is politically desirable.

This calls for a delicate balancing act.

A robust, secure, open and free Internet is all about finding the right balance between what we can do, and what we should do.

In fact, cyberspace is largely a domain without global regulation.

There is, however, increasing global interest in establishing principles for good governance and administration.

This is vital if we are to prevent the development of a fragmented Internet that has lost its global character. 

The Norwegian Government has developed a set of priorities in order to promote robust governance of the Internet:

Firstly, we are promoting a global Internet policy that will help ensure that the Internet remains an open, accessible and robust platform for growth and development.

Secondly, we are promoting the principle that the business community should be responsible for running and developing the Internet.

The multi-stakeholder community – governments, businesses, civil society and academia – should be responsible for Internet governance.

Thirdly, we are promoting good governance in the organisations that control the basic Internet resources.

Openness, responsibility, transparency, representativeness and impartiality are key principles. 

Fourthly, and finally, we are seeking to maintain an Internet that has as few regulations as possible and is not subjected to unnecessary interference from governments.

In other words, Norway will continue to play an active role in Internet governance issues.

Let me now turn to the question of how digitisation calls for cooperation in a somewhat broader sense.

Political leaders have a responsibility to understand how technology affects our lives, our economy and our society.

It is vital that they shoulder this responsibility.

We need to apply our principles of openness, accountability, transparency, representation and competence both online and offline.  

Policy choices largely determine whether or not digital technologies will make development more inclusive, innovative and effective.

The wrong choices could lead to more inequality, less development, and new monopolies. 

We need to be progressive.

We will not be able to respond to the realities of people’s lives and meet their expectations if we are not.

But we also need to provide reassurance.

We need to maintain strong bonds of trust between citizens and government.

And we need to ensure transparency and predictability for our businesses and for our citizens.

Our task is to shape inclusive societies where everybody can take part and realise their potential.

Digital alienation and digital divides must be prevented. 

We must not let a fear of the future take hold.

Ladies and gentlemen,

While Estonia is preparing to take over the EU presidency, Norway is chairing the Nordic and Nordic-Baltic cooperation.

We have both made digitisation a main priority for our chairmanships.

The reason is simple: we need cooperation on the issues that will shape our common future.

In April, we hosted the Digital North conference in Oslo.

Among the participants were the Nordic and Baltic ministers responsible for digitisation, leading tech companies, and other stakeholders.

One of the outcomes of the conference was that the Nordic and Baltic ministers agreed on an ambitious set of priorities for digital cooperation.

I would like to share some of these with you.  

Firstly, we agreed to work together to strengthen our ability to support digital transformation.

We will seek to create a common arena for digital services in the public sector.

Removing technical and legal barriers is one aspect of this.

We want to make life easier for our citizens and companies.

For instance, we want to make it possible to use a unique identity number across borders.

This will facilitate cooperation between national infrastructures and the use of electronic ID.

Furthermore, we agreed to promote the re-use and free movement of data in order to support more advanced public services.

We also need to support and put into practice the principles of ‘once only’ and ‘digital by default’.

This will reduce administrative burdens for citizens and businesses alike.

Cyber security and personal data protection are essential for implementing the goals of our co-operation and for all digital solutions across the Nordic and Baltic region.

Digital cooperation is also a way of increasing competitiveness.

Another joint Nordic-Baltic ambition is to promote initiatives that will make our digital technology developers and suppliers frontrunners in the new data economy.

Our region is full of promising start-up clusters.

We can achieve more by facilitating collaboration between these clusters.

Norway and Estonia have a particularly exciting road ahead in this respect.

A few weeks ago, we signed an agreement that will provide 23 million Euros of funding for green innovation and business development.

I am convinced that this programme will generate excellent digital solutions and products in the coming years.

Promotion of 5G is another concrete area of Nordic-Baltic cooperation.

By exchanging ideas and policies, we can be at the cutting edge when it comes to developing and making use of 5G.

Smart cities, intelligent transport systems and public safety and disaster relief are examples of areas of particular interest.

However, it is important to stress that our Nordic-Baltic cooperation is not meant to be exclusive.

On the contrary, we see ourselves as contributors to a better and more connected digital Europe.

The European Union has played a key role in the development of cross-border digital cooperation.

Norway is an active participant in the development of the digital single market.

Our cooperation is therefore geared towards enhancing the digital single market in the Nordic-Baltic region, not providing a substitute for European efforts.

Some will perhaps say that these are lofty ambitions.

I believe that they are necessary and realistic.

We already live our lives in integrated economies.

We create growth by travelling and trading freely.

We need digital solutions that support the connected lives we live.   

I am also convinced that we have an excellent starting point. Nordic and Baltic countries are digital frontrunners.

We have strong records on innovation and our societies are characterised by a high level of trust.

Our citizens are connected and have a high level of digital competence.

It’s no coincidence that there is an almost perfect overlap between Estonian EU presidency priorities and Norwegian priorities for the Nordic-Baltic regional cooperation.

We are likeminded European partners.

‘E-Estonia’ is a well-established term, perhaps even a recognised trademark.

The reason is of course that Estonia is one of the most advanced e-societies in the world.

Estonians like to say that they are digital by default.

That the alternative simply isn’t viable. I like this attitude.

Actually, I like it so much that I have joined e-Estonia today, by becoming an e-resident!

Not because I think we have bad e-solutions in Norway, or because I plan to start a business here in Tallinn, but because I am convinced that we need to learn from each other!

I believe that digital mobility can be a step towards closer digital cooperation.

In a sense, the objective of our digital cooperation is to make e-residency obsolete, at least in the internal market.

But we have not reached that point yet.

In the meantime, we have everything to gain from drawing inspiration from innovative solutions that are inclusive by design.

I am sure that Estonia will continue to inspire, both during your EU presidency and beyond.

Thank you very much.

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