Select Committee on Digital Skills - Report of Session 2014–15

Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future

Appendix 11: Sweden’s digital agenda

Sweden is a leading digital economy. Its digital agenda, entitled ‘ICT for Everyone’,615 has at its core a set of policy objectives aimed at embedding the internet and digital technologies and skills across the population.

An extract from Sweden’s digital agenda is included below, to serve as an illustration for the UK.

“ICT policy objectives

“In its budget bill for 2012 (Government Bill 2011/12:01), the Government has proposed that earlier ICT policy objectives and interim targets … on growth and quality should be cancelled and replaced by the following ICT policy objectives.

“Sweden will be the best in the world at exploiting the opportunities afforded by digitisation.

“Provided the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament) votes in favour of the Bill, the Government’s work will be focused on this objective. Regarding the goals for accessibility, it is proposed that the goals stated in the bill Accessible Electronic Communications (Government Bill 2009/10:193) should continue to apply. The objective is that Sweden shall have world-class broadband. All households and businesses should have good opportunities to use electronic public services with broadband access.

“Sweden today is strongly placed in the field of ICT, which is also evident in international comparisons. According to the Network Readiness Index616 compiled by the WEF, for example, Sweden has the best conditions and makes best use of ICT. This index measures national conditions for the development and spread of ICT, business climate, some regulatory aspects, human resources and access to hard infrastructure for ICT. In addition, readiness and interest is measured among three main groups of stakeholders: individuals, businesses and government. Finally, current use of ICT among the three main groups of stakeholders is also measured. Sweden is followed in the ranking by Singapore, Denmark, Switzerland and the United States. Sweden also comes out top in the Digital Economy Rankings for 2010617, which compares the level of different countries in the information society, closely followed by Denmark, which had previously headed the rankings. In comparisons of the competiveness of different countries, Sweden is in the top group. In the Global Competitiveness Report618 for 2010–2011, for example, Sweden is ranked second after Switzerland, which means that it has overtaken both Singapore and the United States since the previous reporting period.

“Sweden has a strong ICT and telecom sector and a solid tradition of research and innovation, which has resulted in new services and products and leading companies. It was, for example, in Sweden that modern mobile telephony was invented and developed. A large proportion of the Swedish workforce is employed in the ICT sector or in ICT-related professions in other sectors. ICT also strengthens other key sectors in Sweden such as the defence industry, the pharmaceutical industry and the engineering industry. What has contributed to this is that Sweden has a high level of education, high use of ICT and interest in new technology, as well as good access to ICT infrastructure. In addition, Sweden introduced competition- promoting regulation of the telecom market at an early stage.

“Although Sweden has a top ranking in most international comparisons, there are areas where its position is weaker. These include conditions for companies and their use of ICT. Four indicators in the rankings referred to above in which Sweden is less well placed point in this direction. Companies’ use of ICT is an important driver contributing to increased prosperity and economic growth. It is important that Sweden continues to strengthen its position in all areas.

“The objective of the Digital Agenda for Sweden can be related to the rankings referred to above, in that according to these or other similar ratings, Sweden is to be among the best nations in the world. However, it is also important that Sweden achieves a top ranking in other areas such as gender equality in the ICT sector, democracy and human rights, not covered by the studies mentioned above. This may, for example, relate to measuring the ability of schoolchildren to use computers. To create motivation and harness resources, there is a need for an overarching goal that marks out a desired direction where all stakeholders, individuals, businesses and organisations as well as municipalities, county councils, regional co-operation bodies and government agencies can contribute to Sweden’s overall Digital Agenda.

“ICT policy aims in relation to other goals

“All government policy is covered to varying degrees by ICT policy, while the governing objectives for each area also encompass issues that lie outside ICT policy. This means that certain issues encompassed by ICT policy are also governed by objectives for other areas. An example is e-government, which is encompassed by ICT policy while the objective of administrative policy is what governs. Another example is the objectives for information security, where issues of everyday security come under ICT policy, while the whole area at the same time is governed by the objectives of information security for society.

“Strategic areas

“There is a need for action in several areas to attain the objective of the agenda and face up to the challenges that exist at both the global and national levels. Four strategic areas at an overarching level have been developed based on the perspective of the ICT user:

“There are several sub-areas in each strategic area that represent the substantive issues the Government is actively working on.

“The introductions presented for each sub-area are not interim targets that have decided upon but express the Government’s aspirations in ICT policy.

“Easy and safe to use

“At a time when more and more aspects of society are becoming digital, it is important that everyone can make use of the opportunities that are created. This entails, for instance, being able to use the Internet and other digital services in everyday life as a individual, entrepreneur or employee. The vast majority of Swedish people today use ICT and the Internet more or less regularly. But there are also those who are either unable or unwilling to make use of the opportunities offered by digitisation. These are mainly elderly people, but also include younger citizens, business owners and consumers, and the reasons include lack of trust in the Internet, lack of digital know-how or economic circumstances that prevent them from participating.

“Services that create benefit

“There is a need for attractive and easy-to use digital services for different aspects of life. To meet these varying needs, there is a need for a large and varied supply of services that are developed by both private and public actors. The development of new and better services encourages the use of digital channels and contributes to making established sectors and organisations more efficient while at the same time new creative ideas, innovations and business models are emerging.

“Need for infrastructure

“To enable digital services to be used and offered, there is a need for a basic infrastructure with electronic communications that work well. The Internet as a carrier of services has to be accessible and robust, and the information transmitted online has to be processed in a secure manner. Successful work on the administration of the Internet and Internet standards, both nationally and internationally, is of crucial significance here. An important condition that needs to be met is good access to telephony and broadband in all parts of the country. The basic principle is that this should be provided by the market, and continued investments are needed in all parts of the country. The physical infrastructure therefore has to be built in such a way that data traffic works even if disruptions or outages occur. Geographical information of good quality is important for services that are dependent on location-bound information.

“The role of ICT in societal development

“Increased digitisation affects all societal processes and structures in Sweden and at the global level. ICT developments leads, for example, to the rules intended to protect personal privacy, secrecy, copyright etc. often needing to be adapted in order to respond to the changed circumstances to which technological development gives rise. Several of the most important factors for ongoing changes in society at the national and global levels come from the development and use of IT. Examples are the role of ICT for a more sustainable society, for global development, how research and innovation can be pursued, how people can exercise their freedom on the web, and modernised forms of democracy, participation and insight through increased transparency in the implementation of development assistance etc.”619

615 Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications, ICT for Everyone: A Digital Agenda for Sweden (November 2011): [accessed 7 January 2015]

616 WEF, The Global Information Technology Report 2010–2011 (2011): [accessed 2 February 2015]

617 Economist Intelligence Unit, Digital economy rankings 2010: Beyond e-readiness (June 2010): [accessed 2 February 2015]

618 WEF, The Global Competitiveness Report 2010–2011 (2010):–11.pdf [accessed 2 February 2015]

619 Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications, ICT for Everyone: A Digital Agenda for Sweden (November 2011): [accessed 7 January 2015]