#DigiGovSpotlight Digitalisation in Norway - no “prestige”, but no less meaningful

By Yong Shu Chiang

Dirk Stuart Lammering, Director of Innovation at the national digitalisation agency, Digdir, tells GovInsider how leadership, trust and a focus on substance has helped the Nordic nation become a frontrunner in digitalisation.

The secret to successful government digitalisation in Norway is good leadership, trust, and “prestige-less” collaboration, says Dirk Stuart Lammering, Director of Innovation at the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency (Digdir). Image: Dirk Stuart Lammering.

This story is part of GovInsider's new Digital Government initiative, which aims to feature stories from digital government agencies around the world. Click here to view our interactive map and reach out to editorial@govinsider.asia if you wish to contribute a piece.

Subscribe to the GovInsider Bulletin for the latest public sector and innovation updates.


The secret to successful government digitalisation in Norway is good leadership, trust, and “prestige-less” collaboration.


In Scandinavian languages, “prestige-less” is the literal translation of a term that refers to those who do not prize social status or external validation, have a down-to-earth attitude, and focus on substance over appearance.


According to the Dirk Stuart Lammering, Director of Innovation at the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency (Digdir), this has helped the Norway Government in its aspiration to become a global frontrunner in digitalisation.


The mission of Digdir, which falls under the Ministry of Digitalisation and Public Governance, is to expedite and harmonise the digitalisation of its public sector and society writ large.


Its vision – “Together for a simpler digital everyday life” – is embodied by functions such as promoting the use of plain language in the public sector; developing digital services for citizens, businesses, and municipalities; facilitating collaboration between stakeholders; and supervising universal design of information and communications technology.


“The Government has a comprehensive digital strategy that aims to modernise and simplify the public sector, while also improving the lives of citizens and businesses,” says Lammering.


As such, Digdir has been able to facilitate cross-cutting digitalisation measures and drive innovation in the public sector, while contributing to the people’s trust in government and creating a more digitally advanced society.

Preserving and strengthening ‘trust capital’


As Norway continues to promote digitalisation, both within its own borders as well as in developing countries, it has relied on trust in government and public institutions – something Lammering refers to as ‘trust capital’ – to implement its initiatives.


A 2020 survey found that 64 per cent of Norwegians had trust in information provided by their Government. Meanwhile, the OECD Trust Survey found that trust was high in public institutions, such as the courts and public administration, in Norway.


“Preserving and strengthening this ‘trust capital’ will be essential for Norway in addressing future trade-offs and challenges, such as ensuring the sustainability of the welfare model, coping with climate change, and maintaining social cohesion,” Lammering says.


Such trust has enabled Digdir to steer digital development in the direction that best serves the community, he adds.


Currently, Norwegians can learn about and access digital public services, organised by “life situations” such as studying, working, moving, getting married, and having a child, via the Norge.no web portal. This approach is similarly present in Singapore’s LifeSG app, which supports citizens across key moments of life.


Digdir is also building the third generation of the open-source Altinn platform from scratch, with plans to phase out the old system in a few years. Altinn is a Digital Public Good which government agencies can use to developand host digital services and facilitate dialogue between public agencies, businesses and citizens.  

Best practices in digitalisation


Asked what other countries can learn from Digdir, Lammering says that it can be hard to compare different countries’ digital transformation processes.


However, he notes that some of the agency’s success factors and best practices are worth sharing, including:

  • Collaboration with others: Digitalisation is a team effort. Cooperate with other enterprises to create seamless services for the benefit of citizens. 
  • Use of shared architecture and structures: When you have a common architecture and good information management, you can utilise data to create efficient and innovative services. 
  • Prioritising information security: When you work systematically with management and control of information security, you create safe services. 
  • Share and use data: Sharing data makes it easier to create seamless services and ensure innovation and value creation. 
  • Use common shared digital solutions: When you use common and shared digital solutions that already exist, you save time and money, and can offer secure services. 

Guided by ‘less masculine’ leadership styles


Lammering credits the “Nordic leadership model” for helping Digdir excel.


“[It] is a unique approach… that emphasises transparency, integrity, trust, and education. It is characterised by shorter chains of command and less masculine leadership styles than many other places in the world,” he says.


He also shares that those working in the agency are driven by the organisation’s values, to be reliable, inclusive, and fearless.


“[To be] fearless is that we dare to explore unknown terrain, that we dare to challenge – and to be challenged – and that we are ambitious on our own and on other’s behalf,” Lammering adds.


Such values will guide Digdir well as the Government releases a “Digitalisation Strategy” plan this year to accelerate digitalisation and enable the public sector to realise productivity gains.


According to Lammering, Norway’s public agencies are looking at emerging technology trends, such as the use of artificial intelligence, blockchain, and automation for ethical data handling and digital accessibility, while remaining mindful not to rush adoption and rollout.


“Technology presents the greatest risk when it’s simply layered on top of already overwhelmed workers and processes [if] there is no capacity built in for evaluation and recalibration, to ensure that the technology works as intended,” he says.


He warns that generative AI and similar technologies must be used with caution, adding that Digdir will set the guidelines and risk evaluation frameworks to help ensure responsible development and use of AI in the public sector.


“For us it´s all about the capabilities new tech can give us, not the hype, and how we [guide the use of] these new technologies in a responsible way.”

Subscribe to the GovInsider Bulletin for the latest public sector and innovation updates.