How do you see the technology landscape?

Disruption is a very talked about – some would say hyped – phenomenon. It is a part of almost every conversation about the digital era we live in. We know major change is coming, but not exactly what. It leads many to adopt a wait-and-see approach.

The Danish government is doing quite the opposite. We work actively and deliberately on enabling the benefits of digitalisation while being mindful of the risks and uncertainties involved. The Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen has even established a Disruption Council to give guidance to this work. Recently, the Prime Minister visited Singapore to get further inspiration and share lesson learned in Denmark on transforming our society to the digital era.

How does the Danish Government support the integration of digitalisation within the society?

Denmark itself can be viewed as a design laboratory – continuously questioning, improving and drawing on involvement from industry, universities and local authorities. We have put this approach to use in developing digitalisation. Recognised as one of the EU’s leaders in technology, we have in place a solid framework to build upon.

Central for Denmark was creating a single digital identity called EasyID in 2001 (NemID in Danish). 4.8 million Danes are now connected, one million companies are registered. This identity is used to access all government services, banking, healthcare and private sector activities as simple as booking a haircut!

The introduction of EasyID created a ripple across government functions and among the people. For example, the introduction of EasyID has led to the creation of Digital Post. Today, 90% of Danes receive all public sector communications online. For companies, such digital platforms has removed logistical barriers and lightened the burden of administration. Companies want to use it to facilitate secure communications and provide a platform that can be trusted. This, in turn, helps to build trust with customers.

We consider EasyID a big success, but it did not happen without hiccups. When first rolled out, EasyID faced teething problems. Concerns were raised around user friendliness and the human behavioural element is always the toughest to incorporate.

There was one hitch, which was unexpected. The hardest group to convince were, surprisingly, the digitally savvy 15-20 year olds. While this segment may be more open to the digital world, we faced a lack of understanding around the role of government in their everyday lives. To make them care, we began putting together communication campaigns centred on channels best suited to that age profile. We learned that we need to speak the language of our audience and communicate with them through the channels of their choosing.

How does the Danish government support companies in their digital journey?

We have realised that it is not enough to create infrastructure and digital identity and services. In order to fully reach the digital potential, we have to find new ways to support our companies to scout for talent and technology, and to access new markets with innovative products and services.
The Danish Government therefore operates a network of Innovation Centres in seven locations worldwide. This includes three in Asia. Danish companies can access international knowledge, research and a connected pool of business people across the globe through these centres.

Which aspect of tech are you most excited to follow in 2018?

Most recently, the Danish Government has decided to appoint the world’s first Technology Ambassador based in Silicon Valley, who conducts what we call ‘techplomacy’.

Companies such as Google, IBM, Apple and Microsoft are now so large that their economic strength and impact on our everyday lives exceeds that of many of the countries where we have traditional embassies. The companies also engage in acts of foreign policy, when they weigh in on climate change, data protection, global trade and many other issues.

We therefore need to do traditional diplomatic work, nurturing relationships and establishing networks, aimed at tech companies – not just foreign nations. I am excited to see how this initiative progresses and to do techplomacy from my own chair here in Singapore.