Opening speech at EUIKT15

European ICT-policy conference on the Digital Single Market in Oslo, 26 May 2015.

Check against delivery

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to welcome you all to this conference on information and communication technology and the Digital Single Market strategy.

I am very pleased that so many European policy makers and experts have come to speak to the conference.

And I am especially happy that Norwegian information and communication technology policy stakeholders have turned out in force.

As we face a digital revolution, I hope this conference will provide policy insights, new knowledge, and not least an opportunity to network with colleagues. 

Let me give you with my perspective.

The Norwegian economy is at a crossroads.

With falling oil prices and shifts in the global energy supply, we know that we will have to look for new opportunities. 

Norway will continue to be a nation rich in natural resources for a long time. However, the revenues from fossil fuels will gradually make up a smaller proportion of our economy. This means that we need to develop and innovate in other fields.

New efforts are needed from businesses and from Government, and also at the local level. The city of Stavanger, which is heavily dependent on the oil and gas sector, has been selected as a pilot European city for mobility, energy and information and communication technology among the European Smart Cities. This is one example of new important projects.

In Norway, we will build on our unique experience from 40 years of oil and gas exploration. We know the importance of strategic skills and hi-tech knowledge. We have also become a global leader in maritime technology and aquaculture.

New insights and technology in one field will often open up opportunities in other fields.

For example, without world-class skills in handling big data, it would not be possible to find and recover oil and gas in the North Sea at anywhere near the level we see today.

A key lesson we have learnt from the Norwegian oil and gas saga is the importance of information and communication technology skills.

I am glad to see that this perspective is highlighted in the European Commission’s proposal for a Digital Single Market strategy.

The whole economy is rapidly becoming digital. Information and communication technology is no longer an isolated sector; it is crucial to all aspects of our lives.

I therefore welcome the development of a Digital Single Market. We must overcome technical hurdles and create new opportunities. I am convinced that a true Digital Single Market will promote economic growth, both in Europe and in Norway. This will benefit all European citizens and businesses.

In addition, new digital solutions will be crucial in the modernization of the public sector. High quality digital services for tax collection, for different applications or for public procurement save time and money.

Norway is well positioned to take advantage of a digital economy. We have the skills base, a well-developed infrastructure, and a vibrant information and communication technology industry. At the same time, we are actively taking part in the European – and the global – market.

The EU is by far Norway’s most important trading partner. And through the EEA Agreement, Norway is a full member of the internal market. We have a clear ambition to take active part in the further development of the Digital Single Market. It will be important for Europe, and for Norway, that the single market works just as well in the digital sphere as it does in the physical one.

This will depend on reliable, high-speed and affordable electronic communication networks and services. In Norway, we have put a good deal of effort into developing such services. Now the time has come for a joint cross-border European effort.

At the end of the day, this is about making life easier for everyone. This is a universal goal, and we need to work together to reach it. The European Commission’s initiative is an important step in this regard.

However, these are complex issues, and further discussions will be needed. Some of the challenges will take time to resolve. Proposals for directives and regulations in this field are likely to present both challenges and opportunities for Norway.

Some of these questions will be highlighted during the presentations later today, and I am sure that many more will be discussed during the course of the day, and in the weeks and months to come.

However, the main aim of today’s conference is to raise awareness of information and communication technology and the EU initiative for a Digital Single Market. We will do this by putting a spotlight on some concrete topics of the EU strategy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I hereby declare the conference open, and I wish you a rewarding and enjoyable day with fruitful deliberations on this very important topic.

Thank you very much.