6 Digitalisation and new technology
Digital technology affects all areas of society in many different ways, both in terms of how people carry out their day-to-day activities and how organisations solve their tasks. Digitalisation means using digital technology to change services, processes and work methods.1
There are potentially huge gains to be made from digitalisation, for the general public, businesses and the public sector alike. Digitalisation can also create new business models and change value chains in a short space of time. Digitalisation is expected to increase and have a great impact on how society, business and working life are perceived and function in the years ahead. Whether the public sector succeeds in taking advantage of digitalisation will be of great importance.
6.1 The current situation
6.1.1 Good digital infrastructure
Norway has a good basis for further digital development, a good, competent business sector, a proactive public sector with sophisticated digital services, and a population that is keen to start using new technology.
Digital development is taking place at a rapid pace, and new technologies are emerging that affect everyone, such as increasingly powerful smartphones and communication infrastructure with greater capacity. There are still substantial differences between densely populated and rural areas in terms of the availability of fibre-optics, but the possibility of transmitting huge quantities of data through fibre-optic cables is rapidly increasing all over the country.2 New 5G-based broadband services will be important to achieve the goal of providing broadband for everyone, and Norway’s first 5G pilot project started in 2018 (Box 6.1). This is necessary to be able to handle the digitalisation process.
Textbox 6.1 5G pilot project
Norway and Scandinavia’s first 5G pilot project was officially launched at Kongsberg in November 2018, under the auspices of Telenor and several partners. Among the applications tested are self-driving buses connected to a 5G network and solutions for emergency communication, ehealth and drones. Telia opened a 5G pilot in Oslo in December 2018, and many 5G pilots have started up since then, from Svalbard in the north to Herøya in southern Norway. In March 2020, Telenor launched commercial 5G in Norway by opening a 5G network in Trondheim. New 5G-based broadband services will also be important to achieve the goal of providing broadband for everyone.
Considerable development is also taking place in sensor technology, referred to as the internet of things, as more and more things are connected to the internet. Computer power is becoming cheaper and more easily available through the use of cloud services and data centres, which amplifies this trend.
6.1.2 Exploiting new technology
Technological innovations, such as cars, electricity, computers and smartphones, have freed up resources and contributed to economic growth. New technologies are now emerging more rapidly than ever. Technologies also work better together and can be used to solve increasingly complex tasks.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is an example of a technological area undergoing rapid development (Box 6.2). In early 2020, the Government presented its National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence. According to the strategy, the Government will facilitate world-class AI infrastructure in Norway in the form of digitalisation-friendly regulations, good language resources, fast and robust communication networks, and sufficient computing power. It will facilitate data sharing within and across industries and sectors. Some municipalities have already started using chatbots to enable them to respond efficiently to enquiries from the public.
Textbox 6.2 Artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a collective term for information technology centred around machine learning and reasoning and robotics. AI systems perform actions, physically or digitally, based on the interpretation and processing of structured or unstructured data, to achieve a given target. Some AI systems are also capable of adaptation by analysing and considering how previous actions have impacted the surroundings. Technological development in the field has accelerated in recent years. Examples of the practical application of AI today include:
Computer vision, or the ability to identify objects in images, which is used, for example, for face recognition.
Recognition of patterns or deviations, which is used, for example, to uncover banking and insurance fraud.
Natural language processing (NLP), which is used, for example, to sort and classify documents and information, to extract relevant elements from large quantities of information, and in intelligent assistants and chatbots.
Robotics, which is used, for example, for smart industrial production and to develop autonomous craft such as cars, ships and drones.
6.1.3 Seamless digital services
Collaboration across sectors and administrative levels is necessary to succeed with the digitalisation of Norway. Developing seamless digital services with a user-centric focus requires the agencies to think beyond their own organisation, and it opens for new ideas about how the services should be provided. One of the lessons learned from ongoing development work across organisational boundaries and administrative levels3 is that it is demanding to find good models for the operation and management of the innovation under development.
In their follow-up of the white paper Digital Agenda for Norway (Meld. St. 27 (2015–2016)), the Government and KS developed the digital strategy One digital public sector (2019–2025).4 One of the most important measures in the strategy is about establishing seamless digital services for seven defined life events. One ministry has been assigned responsibility for work on each of the respective life events. One of the tools for succeeding with the development of seamless digital services is data sharing.
Service provision that involves many independent entities, often at different administrative levels, necessitates new forms of permanent cooperation, including clear and sustainable funding models and a clear division of responsibility for enforcing relevant rules and regulations. Such cooperation is strengthened through good alignment between and co-governance with the ministries and directorates involved.
Through strategic management of digitalisation and increased attention to innovation, the ministries can follow-up subordinate agencies’ overall digitalisation and innovation efforts when carrying out concrete tasks. Being a driving force entails setting requirements relating to, and following up, challenges, possibilities and measures across sectors and central government agencies. Going forward, extensive innovation efforts will be required to be able to solve complex tasks in smart ways.
Seamless digital services relating to seven life events
The goal of the digitalisation strategy is to develop seamless digital services with a user-centric focus. The strategy identifies seven life events that will be given priority in the coming work. Three of the events relate to important situations that almost everyone experiences during their lifetime, namely childbirth, death and inheritance. Three of the life events can make life easier for vulnerable groups: caring for a seriously ill child, losing or finding a job, and being new in Norway. Seamless digital services for starting and running a business or voluntary organisation will also make day-to-day activities easier for the public and voluntary sectors. The seven selected life events will not be an obstacle to seamless digital services being developed for other life events.
6.1.4 Digital ecosystems and innovation
The digitalisation strategy describes a national ecosystem consisting of common solutions, data sources, architectures and various individual components that can lower the threshold for innovation and service development in the individual organisations.
The emergence of digital ecosystems is important for digital innovation, not least public digital platforms such as Altinn. Further development can take place either by reusing the public sector information that is available on these platforms or through public-private partnerships where such platforms are part of solution for the business sector.
Sector strategies have been developed to make public sector information available in more areas, including the strategy for the disclosure of public information from the transport and communications sector, the strategy for open culture data, the strategy for the disclosure and sharing of research data, and the national geodata strategy.
6.1.5 Digitalisation in the local government sector
The Government wants to ensure that the municipalities invest in innovation and digitalisation, and that citizens experience local authorities that are efficient and that have new ideas about how to provide the best possible services. Development work in the local government sector does not necessarily mean that all municipalities must engage in innovation and the development of new technology and work methods themselves.
The DigiFin financing scheme (Box 6.3) was established to enable the local government sector to collectively develop more common digital solutions. The scheme makes it possible to develop better citizen services faster and at a lower cost.
Textbox 6.3 The DigiFin scheme
The DigiFin financing scheme was established to enable the local government sector to collectively develop more common digital solutions. The scheme makes it possible to develop better citizen services faster and at a lower cost.
The Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation has contributed NOK 125 million in 2017 and 2018 to the financing of the scheme, which is administered by the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS). It is a condition that the local government sector contributes at least as much. Most county authorities and municipalities have already paid their share to participate in the scheme based on their population.
Potential beneficiaries of the scheme are municipalities, county authorities and KS. Municipally owned enterprises and intermunicipal companies may also receive support if the municipality or county authority participates in the application.
The projects that have received support from the scheme to date include Digihelse for digital dialogue with the health service, Digisos for digital social services, and Min side for access to mail, property and building applications.
Many municipalities also join forces in regional digitalisation networks to provide better services for citizens and businesses (Box 6.4). Collaboration can also be challenging, however, for example in relation to cost allocation and developing and implementing new solutions more or less simultaneously. The division of costs and responsibilities between the central and local government can also be demanding. The Government is therefore in close dialogue with the local government sector about this.
Textbox 6.4 Regional digitalisation networks
Since all municipalities have responsibility for the same statutory tasks, intermunicipal collaboration is particularly useful. In the counties of Vestland, Rogaland, Agder, Trøndelag and parts of Viken, regional networks have been established to provide better services for citizens and businesses. Corresponding cooperation agreements on digitalisation and innovation are being established in several other counties, in addition to the various intermunicipal arrangements that have already been established.
The digitalisation collaboration established in the former Hordaland county has served as the inspiration for several other networks. A total of 33 municipalities joined forces to establish a joint secretariat and expertise in innovation, strategic ICT and digitalisation. They coordinated their efforts with the City of Bergen’s expert groups in the area.
In Rogaland, 26 municipalities have established a corresponding arrangement, among other things to ensure that they are better equipped to host and implement national and regional projects.
The DigiTrøndelag network was established to facilitate increased digitalisation collaboration in Trøndelag county and build bridges between municipalities and with joint projects at the national level. The members of the network are the municipalities in Trøndelag, the county authority and KS. The network facilitates the exchange of information, competence building and implementation of national and, if relevant, regional solutions in Trøndelag.
Since 2015, the municipalities in Agder county have worked together on e-health through a regional coordination group. The network was established in a strategic decision by the group of chief municipal executives in Regionplan Agder, and the members work on both joint procurements and the introduction of digital solutions. The municipalities in Agder county are in the process of establishing a regional network structure that will encompass all digitalisation and innovation in all sectors.
The county authorities already work well together in the field of digitalisation, and some have also played an important role in relation to the municipalities with regard to regional cooperation. Sharing and the reuse of resources and experience will ensure better and more efficient implementation of projects.
The KommIT council, a national strategic advisory body to KS, was established in 2016 to coordinate digitalisation work in the local government sector. The council plays a decisive role in the local government sector’s coordination efforts. It will contribute to the development of common solutions and safeguard the interests of the local government sector. The KommIT council and its subordinate committee aim to strengthen the local government sector’s joint efforts in the area.
6.2 Assessment of the situation
Digitalisation plays a decisive role in value creation, reorganisation of the public sector and in individuals’ everyday lives and independence. The need for intersectoral solutions is great because of the huge potential that lies in cooperation across societal sectors and structures. This makes digitalisation an important policy area, which is also why comprehensive national policies and strategies for digitalisation and artificial intelligence have been developed in recent years.5 The Innovation Barometer surveys show that both central and local government agencies emphasise new technology as the most important driver of innovation.
There is a clear link between digitalisation and innovation, both directly and indirectly: directly through innovative work methods, services and products that are already digital, and that can therefore be scaled up and diffused more quickly than corresponding physical innovations, and indirectly in that digitalisation creates opportunities for innovation in other both digital and non-digital services and products.
The public sector must make increasing use of new work methods and actively test new solutions and utilise new technology and new digital possibilities. Data will be a key resource in future value creation, in both the private and public sectors.
The public sector must focus on inclusive digitalisation. Universal design of ICT is an important tool in this work. Many digital services require a lot of users in terms of perception, orientation, sight, hearing, reading skills and competence in various areas. The public sector therefore needs to develop digital services and ICT solutions that everyone can use. The goal of universal design is to achieve genuine equality and ensure equal participation in society. Good user involvement in the planning and development of digital services is decisive to take account of universal design considerations. Public agencies must therefore ensure the necessary diversity in the user participation processes in connection with digitalisation.
High-quality digital infrastructure throughout the country is an important precondition for digitalisation. 5G infrastructure will be important, among other things to achieve full-scale realisation of the internet of things, with a capacity exceeding the limits of today’s technology. This can pave the way for new applications in the public sector, for example relating to health and care services and smart cities.
It has been claimed that we are heading towards a fifth industrial revolution. The fourth industrial revolution, which is considered to be ongoing, is characterised by digitalisation, automation, robotisation and machine learning. The fifth industrial revolution uses technology to promote sustainability and human needs (Figure 6.2).6
The public sector is in continuous transformation. Better utilisation of data in the public sector is necessary to be able to handle this transition and achieve policy goals. Combined with enabling technologies such as artificial intelligence, data play a key role in the public sector’s successful transition, in cooperation with the private sector, academia and the research communities.
A number of conditions need to be in place in order for the public sector to exploit the potential for innovation that digital transformation offers. First, public agencies need the right legal and financial framework conditions to be able to take advantage of the opportunities and develop their organisation, management and culture (Chapters 4 and 7). Furthermore, staff and management need to have the right competence (Chapter 8).
6.3 The way forward
Public services and the exercise of authority must be adapted to changes in society as they arise, and the central and local government sectors must start to grasp the possibilities new technology and digitalisation offer. The Government therefore wants citizens to experience a public sector that has new ideas about how to provide optimum services efficiently, and that invests in innovation and digitalisation as tools to that end.
6.3.1 Data-driven economy and innovation
The huge growth in data represents an important resource for Norway going forward. It will therefore be important to make sure that Norway has the best framework conditions for exploiting the value of these data. The Government has initiated work on a white paper on data-driven economy and innovation. The plan is to submit the report at the turn of the year 2020/21. The white paper is the Government’s contribution to a better and more efficient public sector, increased value creation in the Norwegian economy and more profitable jobs. Among other things, it will address data sharing within and between the public and private sectors, and how Norwegian businesses can create value and become more competitive through improved utilisation of both public and private data. Important issues will be how to strike a balance between private enterprises’ ownership of their own data and society’s need for access to information and knowledge, and how to ensure that the such data benefit the common good.
There are multiple reasons for facilitating reuse of public sector information, including that such data can be used to develop value-increasing services and products. That is why Norway has had regulations on the reuse of public sector information for nearly two decades. Key elements of the regulations are based on EU regulations, which were recently revised to include more innovations and widen the scope of application. The revised directive is EEA-relevant and, once implemented, will also entail amendments to Norwegian law. The amendments are related to both technological and organisational development, but also social development in general and an understanding of the inherent value of data.
Both compliance with the only-once principle7 and implementation of the PSI Directive8 are conditional on data sharing. The work on life events and the realisation of seamless services across administrative areas and levels will entail considerably more data sharing than at present.
Privacy considerations often limit service innovation based on data. Developing and testing new solutions based on data collected for other purposes is demanding. Many organisations therefore use synthetic data generated for test purposes9 to test new service concepts, analyse correlations and generate new knowledge, without risking privacy violations (Box 6.5). The Government will establish a regulatory sandbox – an arrangement to make it possible to test new solutions within a given framework – for personal data protection under the Norwegian Data Protection Agency’s area of responsibility (Chapter 9).10
Textbox 6.5 Use of synthetic data for tax purposes
The Norwegian Tax Administration is developing a solution to generate synthetic data based on the National Registry. Instead of giving developers and testers access to people’s personal data, they can test the system using fictitious test data. The Tax Administration is also part of an interdisciplinary collaboration that has come up with a search solution called Tenor testdatasøk. Tenor is a tool that can be used to search for and find synthetic test data. The public and private sectors will have access to the National Registry’s test subjects from Tenor.
6.3.2 Quality of data
The development of a more data-driven public sector means that high-quality data and efficient data management will become more important. Efficient collection methods, restrictions on use and quality assurance of data are areas of interest in the innovation context. We use considerable resources on collecting data through, e.g., Earth observation, aerial photography, weather data, log data, sensor data etc. Innovative technology such as artificial intelligence can be used to make data capture, information management and further processing of data more efficient.
6.4 The Government’s aims
The Government wants the public sector to utilise the innovation opportunities offered by digitalisation and new technology to carry out its tasks in new and innovative ways.
The Government will:
facilitate increased use of artificial intelligence in the public sector
facilitate rapid rollout of 5G and high-speed broadband in all parts of the country
submit a report to the Storting on the electronic communications market
submit a report to the Storting on data-driven economy and innovation
continue to facilitate the disclosure of public sector data for further processing and value creation purposes
further develop the national resource centre for data sharing in cooperation with public and private sector stakeholders.
Osmundsen et al. (2018) Hva er digitalisering, digital innovasjon og digital transformasjon? En litteraturstudie (‘What are digitalisation, digital innovation and digital transformation? A literature study’ – in Norwegian only). NOKOBIT vol. 26, no 1. The source uses the term ‘socio-technical structures’ for what we refer to as services, processes and work methods
The National Communications Authority (Nkom) conducts an annual survey of broadband coverage in Norway
Including projects in the co-funding scheme and StimuLab, the DigiFin scheme and work on the Health Analysis Platform (HAP)
Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation (2019) One digital public sector. Digital strategy for the public sector 2019–2025
Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation (2019) One digital public sector. Digital strategy for the public sector 2019–2025, Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation (2020) National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, Report No 27 to the Storting (2015–2016) Digital agenda for Norway– ICT for a simpler everyday life and increased productivity
See inter alia Eerden (2020): A Davos POV About 5th Industrial Revolution
Principle referred to in Report No 27 to the Storting (2015–2016) Digital agenda for Norway, that users only have to provide information to the authorities once
The PSI Directive is an EU directive on the reuse of public sector information (2003/98/EC)
The data are synthetically generated and not just made up of anonymised data, which means that individual re-identification is impossible
Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation (2020) National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence