6 Skills and research for a data-driven economy
Having the right type and level of competence is vital for being able to share and create value using data as a resource. There will be a need for more candidates with specialist ICT education in order to meet the demand for skills in the labour market. In addition, those already active in the labour market must be given the possibility to develop their skills through courses and further education.
6.1 A demand for specialist ICT skills
The labour market must have access to specialists who can develop and use enabling technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data analytics, robotisation and the Internet of Things (IoT). There is a need for employees who can process, analyse and interpret data. According to the European Commission, the need for such specialists in EU-27 will increase from 5.7 million in 2018 to 10.9 million in 2025.1 There is a need for employees who possess both digital skills and an in-depth understanding of their own industry or service area, and who are able to transform data into knowledge and insight.
By specialist ICT skills is meant education in ICT at bachelor’s degree level or higher. This covers a range of educational programmes such as Master of Science in informatics and other programmes and disciplinary fields where ICT makes up an important component, such as health science and computers and law.
Report no. 14 (2019–2020) to the Storting The skills reform: Lifelong learning points out that Norway has been training too few technologists for some time. The Government has redressed this issue by creating new study places in ICT-related subjects. The Norwegian Committee on Skill Needs points out that ever since 2014 the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration’s business survey has reported on the lack of ICT specialists in Norway. It also reports that the labour market for this professional group is changing rapidly and that the need varies widely between sectors and regions.
According to a report prepared by Economics Norway in 2021, there were 56,000 employees with ICT education in the Norwegian labour market in 2019. The number of employees with ICT education has increased five times more than the number of employees generally in recent years. Economics Norway has used its business and skills model (nærings- og kompetansemodell (SØNK)) to project a realistic trend in the business structure and the labour market needs for formal skills up to 2030. According to these projections, the number of employees with ICT education will increase to almost 100,000 people in 2030. This represents an increase of 40,000 people compared with 2019.2 There are two drivers behind the increase in the number of employees with ICT education: higher employment in ICT-related industries and a higher number of employees with ICT education in other industries. The latter effect is the most important, according to the survey.
Statistics Norway’s survey on the use of ICT in the public sector from 2019 shows that three out of four public agencies have encountered difficulties in recruiting ICT specialists. This represents an increase from 2014, when around half reported the same problem. The corresponding figure for the municipalities was 36 per cent in 2019. The demand for these types of skills in the labour market is large, and a 2020 report from the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education reported that system developers and programmers are among the professions that showed strongest employment growth between 2005 and 2013.3 In a survey of members in the Business Association of Norwegian Knowledge and Technology-Based Enterprises (Abelia), the skills areas showing the greatest need were found to be in programming and systems development, artificial intelligence/machine learning, data analytics and cyber security.4
Data science is an important skill in the data economy. Data science is an interdisciplinary field that involves extracting knowledge or insight from different data types and combining informatics, mathematics, statistics and data analytics with applications in other fields; see Figure 6.1. In the labour market the term ‘data scientist’ is used to describe people who develop models for analysing large datasets. Such models can, for example, be used in climate research, logistics, share trading, medical treatment or in developing games. Data science is a field that is undergoing strong growth and developing rapidly.
Competence in cyber security is also critical in a data-driven economy. Surveys from the Norwegian National Security Authority (NSM) show that many agencies have considerable improvement potential in security awareness and security competence.5 The Government has therefore developed a national strategy for cyber security competence.6 The strategy mentions measures for high quality long-term research and sufficient national specialist competence as important areas. In addition, digital security will be included in ICT-related study programmes and be offered in continuing and further education courses.
6.1.1 The number of study places in ICT
Since 2015 the Government has given particular priority to ICT-related study programmes. Increased allocations to such programmes mean an increase of more than 2,150 students admitted to ICT-related studies in 2020 compared with 2014. This increase has happened gradually over several years. The overall effect in the form of graduated candidates has not yet taken effect, but in time this trend will increase the supply of candidates in Norway with high-level ICT skills.
At the same time as the rate of digitalisation and technological development has accelerated, new subjects and study programmes in ICT have been introduced in universities and university colleges. Since 2018, many of them have created their own study programmes in artificial intelligence and data science while the number of places in existing programmes have also increased. For example, more than 350 new study places dedicated to artificial intelligence, robotics and data science were planned from 2020 compared to 2017.
Despite the increase in capacity in recent years, applications to ICT programmes have increased by more than the increased number of study places. The number of applicants to ICT programmes in the Norwegian Universities and Colleges Admission Service for 2020 shows that there are many more qualified applicants than study places.
There is a need for more dialogue between the universities and university colleges and the labour market and society in order to achieve better alignment between educational programmes and labour market skills needs. In the spring of 2021, the Government launched a white paper on the quality and labour market relevance in higher education.7 The Government will facilitate broader dialogue and more systematic cooperation between universities, university colleges, state and local authorities and the private and voluntary sectors. A memorandum of understanding with Universities Norway, the social partners and the voluntary sector will contribute to this. The Government expects the universities and university colleges to facilitate employee mobility, for example in the form of dual positions between universities and university colleges and the rest of the labour market.
The Government has decided to produce a white paper on governance policies for public universities and university colleges. The white paper will discuss themes such as how the design of higher education should be governed to ensure sufficient capacity and skills for the regions and the future labour market.
Textbox 6.1 Norwegian Committee on Skill Needs
In the spring of 2017, the Government appointed the Norwegian Committee on Skill Needs to obtain the best possible assessment of Norway’s future skill needs. In its third report, the committee highlights three key trends that will come to shape the labour market and skill needs in the time ahead:
The Government has decided to extend the tenure of the Norwegian Committee on Skill Needs until 2026 with an amended mandate and new organisation. One of the new duties in the committee’s mandate is to offer advice on the design of the education sector. The mandate attaches importance to the fact that technology development, which is driven by increasing digitalisation, will create major needs for reform in the time ahead.
6.1.2 Development of the data economy depends on interdisciplinarity
An interdisciplinary approach to research and education is important for understanding the consequences of the extensive changes and problems that a data-driven economy entails. Using data as a resource has a lot to do with developing services and business models in new ways. This raises whole new problems, particularly at the interfaces between law, technology, economy and the social sciences. Increased sharing and use of data involve taking a closer look at the ethical dilemmas that arise, what choices are made, and how these affect society in terms of sustainability, democratisation and trust in the population. The Expert Group on Private Sector Data Sharing has commented that many legal disciplines have fully adopted digitalisation perspectives, and sees the need for a more interdisciplinary approach to problems in the data economy.8
An introductory course in artificial intelligence for medical students and bioengineers has been established at the University of Bergen, where students learn how artificial intelligence can be used in clinical practice. In 2019 the Centre for Computational and Data Science was established at the University of Oslo (UiO). Its starting point is that data science is far-reaching and in reality has significance for all disciplinary fields at UiO; see Box 6.5
On commission from the Ministry of Education and Research, the Norwegian Directorate for ICT and Joint Services in Higher Education and Research (UNIT) has developed a new digitalisation strategy for the higher education sector.9 The purpose of the new digitalisation strategy is to set the course for further digitalisation of higher education and research in Norway. One of six strategic focus areas is value creation through sharing and reusing data. The strategy also reflects the growing need for interdisciplinarity, and considers among other things that vocationally adapted digital skills should be better incorporated into all disciplines.
6.2 Opportunities for lifelong learning
The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration’s Horizon Scan10 shows that the pace of change in the labour market likely will accelerate, and the OECD estimates that every fourth job will undergo major changes.11 There will be a need for more vocationally adapted digital skills and specialised digital skills in industries where employees traditionally have had other vocational backgrounds. For example, skills in fraud detection, data analytics, business development and computer science have gained importance in the financial services industry in recent years.
The Basic Agreements between employers and employees establishes that the costs for up-skilling and re-skilling that are necessary to meet the needs of the company must be borne by the company. The costs for further education or training that is not relevant for the company, for example if an employee wishes to change occupation, must generally be covered by the individual. It is up to the employer to decide what is relevant and necessary for the company.
However, society cannot expect businesses to carry full responsibility for covering the labour market’s needs for new skills. Many small and medium-sized enterprises do not have the capacity to work systematically on up-skilling or re-skilling for their employees. In future, employees must expect to change jobs more often, and it is therefore natural that individuals gradually take on more responsibility for their own skills and career and not depend solely on their employers.
6.2.1 Flexible provision of courses and further education
In April 2020 the Government presented its white paper on skills reform.12 The objective of the reform is that no one’s skills become obsolete, and that the labour market needs and employee skills should be better aligned.
A flexible system is needed that can quickly respond to new skills needs. The Government has established schemes to support flexible programmes that can be combined with work and that are available throughout the country. Between 2018 and 2020, a total of around NOK 185 million was allocated to schemes that make tertiary vocational education and higher education, including further education, available to people in work and for people who cannot move to an ordinary place of study. In 2021 up to NOK 132 million has been announced for flexible educational programmes.
In 2019 the Government created a new scheme under the Norwegian Agency for International Cooperation and Quality Enhancement in Higher Education. Under this scheme, universities and university colleges can apply for subsidies to develop and operate flexible programmes to increase access to relevant educational programmes for people who cannot move to study. Priority was given to programmes focusing on sustainable transformation and environmentally friendly business development, technology and health.
The skills challenges differ throughout the country. Under the local government reform, the county municipalities were assigned an important role with respect to the labour market, tertiary vocational colleges, universities and university colleges to ensure better access to skills and relevant, qualified workforces in the regional labour markets.
As school owners for public tertiary vocational colleges and upper secondary education, the counties are particularly well placed to design the county’s educational provision in a targeted manner. The tertiary vocational colleges are particularly able to quickly develop and offer short educational and training programmes in cooperation with the labour market. The county municipalities play a key role in developing higher vocational education, both as provider and administrator of tertiary vocational education, and in contributing to continuing and further education for local business and industry.
The Government has also established a scheme where universities, university colleges and tertiary vocational colleges can apply for funding to develop more flexible further education programmes in cooperation with the private sector. Digitalisation is given priority in this scheme because the scope of flexible further education programmes with relevance for digitalisation offered by Norwegian universities, university colleges and tertiary vocational colleges is small. The scheme is managed by Skills Norway.
In 2019 the Government and the social partners established a scheme with tripartite industry programmes. The objective of the industry programmes is to contribute to skills development according to industry needs so that employees can handle changes and be better equipped for tomorrow’s labour market. Ten industry programmes have been created so far.
In order to ensure high-quality and better integrated career guidance, the Storting has established by law that the county municipalities have a duty to provide career guidance to their citizens. A national digital career guidance service, karriereveiledning.no, has also been established. The karriereveiledning.no website offers information, reflection tools and professional career guidance via chat and telephone. In addition, the Government will consider a digital skills platform that will make it easier for those who need to find the right continuing or further education programme. The Government will also continue the work on making the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund more flexible and better adapted to customers who take further education.
Some companies opt to cooperate with educational institutions on designing a more targeted skills development programme for their employees. For example, DNB bank has offered its employees opportunities to take further education in data science in order to meet the bank’s need for skills in this area.13 DNB has also initiated cooperation with the Department of Informatics at the University of Oslo because they saw a need for more IT architects. Together they have developed a one-year programme at master’s degree level that can be taken on a part-time basis over three years. The first cohort started in 2018. Equinor cooperates with the University of California, Berkeley on tailoring the Leading Digital Transformation programme for its managers. Several other companies and enterprises have entered into similar cooperation with educational institutions. Equinor also uses massive open online courses (MOOC) to develop its employees’ skills.
Textbox 6.2 Elements of AI
Elements of AI is a free online course in artificial intelligence. The course was developed in the spring of 2018 by the Finnish company Reaktor, its Norwegian sister company Feed and the University of Helsinki. The course is open to anyone interested in learning more about artificial intelligence, what it can and cannot be used for, and how to start using methods based on artificial intelligence. The course combines theory with practical exercises, and requires no specific prior knowledge. Elements of AI was launched in Norway by Feed in cooperation with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in 2020. A follow-up course, Building AI, is now offered. Building AI offers participants deeper insight and teaches them how to build algorithms.
6.2.2 Competence needs of small and medium-sized enterprises
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up a highly heterogeneous group, but one feature they all have in common is their often limited resources to develop new skills or buy services to meet their needs. SMEs need everything from standard guidance manuals and short courses to continuing and further education programmes at university and university college level, often developed in cooperation between the educational institutions and the private sector.
Many rural areas lack access to ICT skills. The region around Oslo has a structure of clusters and industries that cover around 85 per cent of the employees in Norway with relevant ICT education. A survey conducted by the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education shows that two to three years after completing their education, 70 per cent of ICT candidates at master’s degree level work in the Oslo region.14 Mobility among master’s degree graduates in ICT is 20 per cent higher than the average for master’s degree graduates generally, and they are drawn towards the large cities, primarily Oslo.
Companies in the regions can make themselves more attractive to ICT students by cooperating with the universities and university colleges on creating practical placements for students. More cooperation with local labour markets during education can make it easier and more attractive for new graduates to seek jobs locally.
Better measures must be taken to allow the full breadth of the private sector to take advantage of decentralised continuing and further education courses in digital skills. To ensure that small companies also develop digital skills and tools, it will be important not just to develop offerings in courses and further education but also to encourage and facilitate good use of these offerings.
The Government has supported establishment of DigitalNorway. The centre plays an important role in building digital competence in the private sector, and works actively to enable small and medium-sized enterprises particularly to be able to participate in the data-driven economy. They offer free courses, guidance and further education programmes. They also arrange webinars, workshops and digital meeting places to facilitate experience exchange.
Textbox 6.3 DigitalNorway
DigitalNorway is a non-profit initiative started in 2017 by 15 committed businesses with support from the public sector. Its objective is to speed up the digital transformation of Norwegian industry, especially in SMEs.
It is important to enable SMEs to participate in the data-driven economy. DigitalNorway will therefore promote large-scale collaborative projects involving data sharing in various industries. In alliance with the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency, DigitalNorway will have a key role in the Government’s programme to establish a data factory.
As one of five Norwegian Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs) under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, DigitalNorway is engaged in several EU projects and undertakes information activities related to research, technology and innovation, with a particular focus on SMEs.
DigitalNorway also delivers free online guides and training courses in various aspects of digitalisation, such as innovation, data use and digital marketing. The training courses range from short online sessions to more comprehensive further education programmes adapted to private sector needs. The courses are developed in cooperation with the universities.
6.3 Research policy for increased knowledge of and for the data economy
Norway needs knowledge about what opportunities and challenges arise with the data economy, and how it affects Norwegian society. This creates a need for research in different fields such as ICT, law, economics and social sciences, as well as for a more interdisciplinary approach. For example, development in big data, data science and artificial intelligence will raise ethical and societal issues that should be researched. The Government’s key research policy document is Report to the Storting no. 4 (2018–2019) Long-term plan for research and higher education 2019–2028. Enabling and industrial technologies, including ICT, is one of five long-term priorities in the plan.
A focus on basic technology research, artificial intelligence and data science is important for keeping up with international trends and realising the Government’s ambitions of renewal and restructuring. Civil protection, privacy and how technology affects society are important research areas that support this. For the data economy, research in areas including legal and economic issues will be important for moving the field of study forward.
6.3.1 ICT research and development
Between 2015 and 2019, a total of approximately NOK 1.3 billion was allocated via the Research Council of Norway to projects in artificial intelligence, robotics and information management (big data). These areas are extremely important for the data-driven economy. They are also the technology areas in ICT that grew most between 2015 and 2019; see Figure 6.3. Data protection, security and risk are other important ICT-related R&D areas in the data-driven economy. The enabling technologies are developed and applied in interaction with each other, and new technology areas are emerging at the interfaces between them. Considerable international attention is being paid to encouraging different technologies to merge and produce new knowledge, business development and innovation, and such technology convergence is high on the Research Council of Norway’s agenda.
The size of allocations to basic research in ICT grew between 2016 and 2019. The Government wants this trend to continue, and ICT research will be strengthened in accordance with the escalation plan set out in the Long-term plan for research and higher education. The escalation plan is worth a total of NOK 800 million for the period 2019–2022, and in 2021 the Storting increased allocations to the Research Council of Norway by NOK 62.5 million for basic technology research with emphasis on ICT. Such initiatives in basic ICT research are necessary for building communities of research excellence that can form the foundation for the Government’s goal of a technology-driven transformation and a digital green transformation. The long-term plan will be revised every four years.
Textbox 6.4 Norwegian Research Center for AI Innovation (NorwAI)
The Centres for Research-based Innovation are the Research Council of Norway’s scheme for building or strengthening Norwegian research communities in close cooperation with an innovative private sector. The purpose is to support long-term research that promotes innovation and competitiveness in the private sector.
The Norwegian Research Center for AI Innovation is a new research centre for artificial intelligence and big data led by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and SINTEF Digital. The purpose of the centre is to develop ground-breaking theories, methods and technologies for efficient and responsible use of data-driven artificial intelligence in innovative, industrial solutions.
Among other things, NorwAI will work on: challenges associated with intelligent data platforms, analysis of large-scale sensor data, massive language models for Scandinavian languages, and the relation between physical and digital systems.
Source Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Textbox 6.5 dScience – Centre for Computational and Data Science
Sustainable societal development is increasingly dependent on knowledge from data and the use of increasingly larger datasets. That is why the University of Oslo has established dScience – Centre for Computational and Data Science.
By gathering research communities across the institutes and disciplines, dScience will enhance the university’s scientific profile and position Norway in the international arena. By conducting research in areas such as artificial intelligence, language technology, statistical methods, machine learning and deep learning, dScience will contribute to better, more efficient use of data in public administration and business development. This includes managing uncertainty and transforming knowledge and competence into economically sustainable jobs. As well as facilitating development and use of digital resources in research and business development, dScience will operate meeting places and develop partnerships between research communities in academia, and the private and public sector.
Source Source: University of Oslo
6.3.2 Participation in the Horizon Europe research programme
The world’s leading research environments in ICT are in the United States, China and the EU. International cooperation with good research communities on all continents is important for being at the frontier of research and building research-based knowledge and competence nationally, as well as for being perceived as attractive partners in international projects.
A key component in Norway’s research policy is participation in the EU Framework Programme for research and innovation. The EU’s ninth framework programme for research and innovation, Horizon Europe, commenced on 1 January 2021 with a proposed budget totalling EUR 94 billion. Norwegian entities can apply for funding on equal terms with companies, public agencies and research institutions in EU member states. An important change from the previous framework programme for research, Horizon 2020, is the introduction of mission-oriented research and innovation, where ‘missions’ must be ambitious research and innovation initiatives to solve specific major societal challenges. Combined with participation in the Digital Europe Programme (DIGITAL), participation in Horizon Europe will give Norway a solid competence boost in important areas. Artificial intelligence plays a key role in the programme. The focus on innovation will also be stronger than in Horizon 2020.
6.4 The Government will
The Government will
present a white paper to the Storting on governance policies for public universities and university colleges, with expectations that universities and university colleges design their study programmes according to student demands and labour market needs
present a new digitalisation strategy for the higher education sector in the spring of 2021
strengthen basic ICT research through the Research Council of Norway
encourage public and private entities to have employees take the online course Elements of AI, which is now available in Norwegian
European Commission (2020): Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions A European strategy for data COM/2020/66 final
Samfunnsøkonomisk analyse (2021): Samfunnsøkonomisk analyse (2021) [Norway’s need for ICT competence today and in future]. Report commissioned by Abelia, ICT Norway, NITO, NITO, DigitalNorway, Tekna, Negotia and the Electrician and IT Workers Union. R1-2021
NIFU (2020) Arbeidsmarkedet for IKT-kandidater med høyere utdanning [Employment market for ICT candidates with higher education]. NIFU report, 2020:15
Abelia (2020): Teknologi- og kunnskapsbedriftenes kompetansebehov [Competence needs of technology and knowledge companies]. Analysis, November 2020
Nasjonal sikkerhetsmyndighet (2017): Helhetlig IKT-risikobilde 2017 [Overall ICT risk situation 2017]
Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet (2019): Nasjonal strategi for digital sikkerhetsko [National strategy for cyber security competence]
Meld. St. 16 (2020–2021 Utdanning for omstilling – Økt arbeidslivsrelevans i høyere utdanning [Education for change – increased labour marked relevance in higher education]
Report on the expert group for data sharing in the business sector. April 2020
Ministry of Education and Research (2021): Strategi for digital omstilling i universitets- og høyskolesektoren [Strategy for digital transformation in higher education]
NAV (2019): NAV’s Horizon Scan 2019 – Developments, trends and consequences towards 2030. Report 1-2019
Nedelkoska, L. and Quintini, G. (2018): Automation, skills use and training, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 202, OECD Publishing, Paris
Report no. 14 (2019–2020) to the Storting The skills reform: Lifelong learning
DNB (2018): DNB utdanner egne Data Scientists [DNB training its own data scientists]. News article on dnb.no, 29 June 2018
NIFU (2020): Arbeidsmarkedet for IKT-kandidater med høyere utdanning [Employment market for ICT candidates with higher education]. NIFU report 2020:15