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Denmark - the smallest country in Scandinavia, commonly associated with ‘hygge’ and the world’s best cinnamon rolls - has been widely recognised as one of the most advanced digital economies in the EU.

Ranked in the DESI scale as the most digitally advanced economy in Europe, there’s plenty to learn from Denmark when it comes to digitalisation.

Here we explore the country’s approaches to digitalisation, the challenges that remain, and summarise five initiatives that exemplify how these can be addressed.

Denmark’s digital context: A pioneering digital frontrunner

One area in which Denmark has particularly excelled, in relation to other digital frontrunner countries, is in its national efforts to ensure that all of its citizens benefit from digitalisation.

Rising well above the European average, 94% of Danes are online and 78% are equipped with at least a basic level of digital skills. This does not apply only to the younger generations; half of those aged 65 or above are also digitally skilled.

How has the country achieved this feat, and what makes Denmark a ‘pioneering’ digital frontrunner? We believe it’s largely down to the nation’s unique and remarkable focus on fostering innovation through collaboration, partnership building, and learning from what others are doing.

For example, in 2017 Denmark became the first nation in the world to appoint a Digital Ambassador. Working across Silicon Valley, Beijing and Copenhagen, Casper Klynge is responsible for ‘TechPlomacy’ in Denmark and abroad. The Danish government has appointed Klynge to look for innovative solutions beyond its own borders, to share best practice with other countries and ensure that Denmark is continuously learning from other approaches around the world.

Denmark has also made outstanding progress in the use of digital technologies by enterprises, and leads the EU and the world rankings in the delivery of online public services - including banking, shopping and online entertainment. This success has largely been due to the Danish government’s Digital Growth Strategy - a consistent and long-term national initiative, which we explore below.

However, these successes would not be possible without maintaining a steady supply of expertise: one of the country’s biggest challenges.

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Working towards a resilient labour market system

Denmark is facing a stagnating supply of ICT professionals. Reports show that whilst their number has remained steady in recent years, the demand for digital skills and STEM specialists in Denmark has been growing. According to Europe's Digital Progress Report (2017), Danish companies will face a deficit of 19,000 employees with digital skills by 2030. This is a key challenge for the Danish economy, if the country wishes to continue it’s digital and innovative transformation at the same impressive rate.

Not enough people are keeping up with this digital transformation. The vocational education sector in Denmark is notably strong and equipped with a comprehensive apprenticeship system, but still not enough people in the labour market are actively being up-skilled or trained in order to keep pace with the country’s ambitious digitalisation plans.

Increasingly, public sector services and authorities are recognising that if this challenge is not addressed, it will lead to increased pressure on Danish capacities and companies in the future.

It’s clear that a systemic approach is necessary to maintain a steady supply of talent across the labour market. The initiatives explored below exemplify how Denmark is building a resilient labour market system that can adapt to changes in skills demand through collaboration and multistakeholder partnerships - one of the key priority areas highlighted in our recent report.

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1. Digital Growth Strategy

What?

The government’s Digital Growth Strategy was established in January 2018, and consists of 38 initiatives that will run until 2025. The initiatives aim to secure solid frameworks to help businesses make use of new technologies, and ensure all Danes are prepared for a digital future.

Why?


The government of Denmark has recognised that, in order for Denmark to remain a digital frontrunner, all Danes need to increasingly access and experience the benefits of a digital future. The Digital Growth Strategy is designed to boost the Danish tech and digital ecosystem by improving the conditions for businesses, in turn supporting wider society to reap the full benefits of new technologies.

How?

The 38 initiatives included in the strategy all support Denmark’s digital growth in different ways. For example:

  1. The Digital Hub Denmark - a matchmaking platform to improve companies’ access to talent within emerging digital technologies (see below for more information)
  2. The Technology Pact - a national collaboration network to encourage more young people to engage in STEM subjects
  3. A national programme to strengthen IT skills in elementary schools across the country (see below for more information)
  4. Initiatives to make data more accessible and open for businesses, in order to drive growth
  5. Instating regulation that is more agile and that better supports new business models

Outcomes:

The 38 initiatives included in the strategy have been allocated a total of 134 million EUR from 2018 to 2025 and 10 million EUR onwards per year. The government’s strategy document states that they will continuously monitor whether the strategy is achieving its goals.

The objectives of the strategy are ambitious. They include:

  • “All Danes must thrive and feel secure as they go through the digital transformation”
  • “Danish businesses should be the most digital in Europe, making Denmark one of the leading countries when it comes to new business models”
  • “Danes should be the most digitally prepared people in the EU."

2. Digital Hub Denmark

What?

The Digital Hub Denmark is an independent organisation and public private partnership between the Danish Government, the Confederation of Danish Industry, the Danish Chamber of Commerce and Finance Denmark.

It was formed in 2018 to support and strengthen the digital growth environment in Denmark by facilitating collaboration across private companies, researchers, and tech-entrepreneurs.

Why?

Collaboration has been recognised by the Danish government as one of the most effective ways to keep the country on track for it’s continued and sustainable long-term digital growth.

Such spaces for collaboration need to be highly appealing, a safe space for experimentation, and be fun to take part in. In their own words, the Digital Hub Denmark strives to make Denmark “the most thriving and attractive digital growth environment in Europe”, and “a digital playground”.

How?

The hub’s strategy is to support a process of matching private companies, researchers, tech-entrepreneurs, and students in the development of new digital products, services and business models. Essentially, it’s an initiative to connect big ideas with digital experience, disseminate knowledge and encourage innovation.

There are 4 core elements to the programme:

  1. A digital platform, where members are matched according to specific challenges
  2. A national centre for research in digital technologies
  3. Conferences and trial projects, to improve the commercial use of data and new digital technologies for new services and business models
  4. International marketing, to raise awareness of Denmark’s digital growth environment

Outcomes:

So far, the Digital Hub Denmark has:

  • Provided work for roughly 1,000 IT specialists and students on projects lasting 3-6 months
  • Created a framework for outreach and activities including workshops, talks and networking events

3. The Technology Pact

What?

The Technology Pact (Teknologipagten) was formed in 2018. Led by the Ministry for Economic Affairs, the initiative is a partnership between the Danish government, the business community and educational institutions. The Technology Pact is a national collective effort to ensure that more people (particularly young people) are choosing to engage in technical and digital education programmes, in order to match the private sector’s demand for STEM skills and competencies.

Why?

The Technology Pact is a direct response to the Danish government’s acknowledgement of a national shortage of employees with digital and technical competencies. More specifically, a 2017 survey found that, out of 33,000 job announcements from private Danish companies that year, 25% were asking for STEM competencies.

How?

With the Technology Pact, the Government has set a goal of increasing uptake of higher education within STEM subjects by 20% over the next 10 years. If the initiative achieves this, it means that Denmark will have 10,000 more STEM graduates.

Launched in spring 2018, the Pact is still in the very early stages. Watch this space for more developments and information.

Outcomes:

If implemented successfully over the coming years, The Technology Pact will result in:

  • More than 150,000 children, adolescents and adults and 250 companies being engaged by 2020.
  • 20% more Danes having higher education degrees within STEM, and 20% more obtaining STEM vocational education within 10 years

4. DTU Learn for Life Centre

What?

The DTU Learn for Life centre was established in April of this year. It’s aim is to become the Technical University of Denmark’s central platform for continuing education, and will provide knowledge, support and assistance to partners about lifelong learning. It is a collaborative effort between DTU departments, central administration and strategic partners.

Why?

The centre was initiated to showcase DTU's innovative technologies and expertise, both within Denmark and to the rest of the world. It also promotes a culture of lifelong learning and meets a national need for continuing education provision.

How?

The Learn for Life centre will provide a range of continuing education programmes to partners of DTU; both long and short term studies, including subjects such as AI, machine learning and data analytics.

The centre also supports DTU's customers in the fields of business, government and other organisations, with advice and knowledge about lifelong learning and professional development.

Outcomes:

The opening of the Learn for Life Centre has led to the creation of a new and ambitious strategy for continuing education and lifelong learning at DTU. This strategy will be adopted by DTU's Executive Board in the autumn of 2019.

5. The Disruption Council

What?

The Danish Government established the Disruption Council for the period of 2017-2019. It is a partnership between trade unions, employer organisations and companies, entrepreneurs, experts, youth and ministers that aims to prepare Danish civil society for the job market of the future.

The council analyses and provides suggestions for how the future Danish labour market can address the opportunities that technological developments bring, as well as how Denmark can maintain and develop a dynamic labour market. Their recommendations relate to future skills, international partnerships, new business models, tomorrow’s technology and lifelong learning.

Why?

The council aims to ensure that new political initiatives being brought to Denmark benefit all members of society, and not just the highly educated. The initiative provides a platform for key actors to collectively recognise the challenges and possibilities of digital transformation.

How?

Over the course of 2017-2019, members of the Disruption Council have visited workplaces that have anticipated that they will be transformed by digital technology, researched the impact of digitalisation, and established a shared and comprehensive understanding of the threats and opportunities of the future.

Outcomes:

Through meeting eight times in 2017-2018, the Council has:

  • Discussed a wide range of issues relating to digital transformation, including security, education and training, social welfare and international trade.
  • Made recommendations which have contributed to the Strategy for Denmark’s Digital Growth, the development of the Danish Technology Pact, and Denmark’s tripartite agreement on retraining.
  • Identified a range of ways to ensure that digitalisation, robots and artificial intelligence (AI) will increase wealth and improve welfare of Danish citizens, even though many traditional jobs will disappear.

Author

Genna Barnett

Genna Barnett

Genna Barnett

Assistant Programme Manager, Future of Work

Based in Nesta's policy and research team, Genna is the Assistant Programme Manager for a number of projects addressing the impact of technology on work and jobs.

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Juan Casasbuenas

Juan Casasbuenas

Juan Casasbuenas

Curriculum and Content Manager

Juan is a Curriculum and Content Manager supporting the Digital Frontrunners and Global Innovation Policy Accelerator programmes.

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