The Swedish Digitization
Why Sweden is the third most “digital” country of the European Union? The main explanation can be found in the economical, geographical and cultural context of Sweden.
Some information we can find on the Wikipedia page dedicated to Sweden, concerning specificities of the Scandinavian country will be useful to understand this context:
- Sweden is the 3rd largest European country with 450,000 km². But 65% of the total land area is covered with forests, and 8% by water.
- Because of its high latitude:
- the length of daylight vary greatly: Daylight lasts for only 6 hours in December
- temperatures fall very low during the winter, with important snowfalls
- Total population: over 9.8 million in 2016. And 85% of the population live in urban areas.
- Sweden has the 14th highest rank of the HDI (Human Development Index)
- The country has the world’s second-highest percentage of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) invested in Research & Development: 3.5% of its GDP (between 15 and 20 billion).
What do we learn from these statistics? They allow to understand the profile of Swedish people:
They live in one of the wealthiest country in the world which provide them education and a comfortable way of life, and moreover allocate a significant part of its wealth to promote progress and technology.
Because of the shortness of daylight and difficult climatic conditions during half the year (creating a lot of transportation issues, as frozen roads etc.), they develop a culture of cocooning inside their house, most of the time (that’s also why they enjoy so much being outside on summer!). The functioning of the entire society could be slowed, or blocked.
As a result, public authorities of Sweden as well as the population understood quickly that the development of the Internet and its uses should be essential and must become a priority. Indeed, the Internet allow Swedish people to do what they need in a safer and more comfortable way. So, an important number of measures has been taken by government to improve access to the Internet and to develop online applications.
According to the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index, the Kingdom of Sweden is in 2016 the 3rd most digitalized country of the European Union, as I said at the top of this document. This ranking is based on 5 criteria:
Connectivity refers to the access and affordability of Internet connections.
In the middle of 2015, fixed broadband was available to 99% of homes in Sweden (97% in the EU). In rural areas, fixed broadband covered 94% of homes. At the same time, Next Generation Access capable of providing at least 30 Mbps download was available to 76% of homes (71% in the EU) and 4th generation (LTE) networks to 99%. These results are remarkable given the geographical configuration of the country.
Despite of the fact that 85% of the population is living in urban areas, the Internet coverage of the countryside is essential. Indeed, a significant part of Swedish people who live in cities for professional reasons own small cottages into forests or near lakes. And it’s a tradition for them to go there to spend their week-ends or holidays (which are great opportunities to surf on the web, to watch films or buy stuff). Moreover, there is a strong culture of “never leaving anybody behind” (example: I noticed that in Sweden public space, most of the Picnic tables are designed to offer an equal access for people in wheelchair.)
Another notifiable point is the incredible number of Free Wifi spots. We can find them in much more public places than in the rest of Europe. From Malmö to Kiruna (over the polar circle), most of shops, pubs, cafés, gas stations etc. provide a free Wifi-Fi access to their clients.
- Internet skills of Swedes (human capital)
According to the DESI: “89% of Swedish people use the internet and 72% of them have the basic digital skills that allow them to take part in the possibilities offered by the internet and to benefit from the opportunities offered by a digital society and economy.
Furthermore, Sweden also avails of the second highest number of ICT specialists in the workforce in Europe, 60% above the EU average value. This allows Sweden to further increase the competitiveness of the Swedish economy”.
These statistics show the will of the government to accentuate the teaching and the development of knowledges about ICTs. The country understood early the necessity and the benefits of creating a technology-friendly population. It’s obvious that creating technological tools is totally useless if the people are not able to use it properly.
- Use of the Internet
There’s a massive use of Mobile Internet with development of the LTE network (100 megabits per second in Stockholm!). That kind of powerful infrastructures allow professionals and population to use an increasing number of applications with their mobile phone. The DESI made list of main Swedish people online activities:
- They read news online (83%),
- They listen to music, watch films and play games online (57%),
- They use the Internet to communicate via video calls (43%) or through social networks (69%),
- They obtain video content using their broadband connections (49% of households subscribe to Video on Demand).
- 78% of internet users shop online.
A very interesting trend, unique in the world, appeared in Sweden: The country become slowly “cash-free”. An increasing number of banks no longer dispense or take cash, and move to “all-digital transactions”, especially using mobile payments. Today, coins and bills represent only 2% of transaction (7.7 in the US).
- Development and integration of digital technologies
Stockholm count as many Start-ups in technologies as the Silicon Valley, and is now considered as a global IT hub. Some of these start-up are now internationally known as Spotify (music streaming leader), King (creator of Candy Crush), Mojang (creator of Minecraft), Skype, and Dice (one of the world’s most important videogame developer). All of these success story find their origins in the favorable ecosystem that exist in Sweden: a lot of ITC specialists, help from big traditional tech firms as Ericsson (the company who create the Bluetooth system), tax deduction for people who privately invest in startups, etc. This context is very attractive for young talents, whose are also seduced by the Swedish entrepreneurship and Start-up culture (yes, the culture again!):
« The way in which Nordic companies operate can be linked with the sauna culture, » says Jean-Jerome Schmidt, ClusterControl Evangelist at Severalnines. « Whether you’re the CEO of a company or a receptionist, once you’re all sitting in a sauna together, barriers fall and everyone is at the same level. »
« The country has a culture of ‘all for one and one for all’ – working without hierarchy and as an even unit, » says Sean Farrington, UK MD and RVP Northern Europe at data discovery firm Qlik.
Furthermore, Swedish companies take advantage of new technologies to improve their internal working, using Cloud Services (around 30% of them), social media as a communication tool and create online shops to sell their products.
- Digital public services
The eGovernement platform is, according to the DESI report, one of the most efficient of the European Union. As I said in my introduction, creating an effective platform seems essential in Sweden, regarding the climate condition: it allows Swedes to pay taxes, and to make most of administrative procedures online, from home. The efficiency gain for companies, citizens and public administration is significant.
To conclude, we can say that Sweden achieve to create a Virtuous Circle, working on the development of infrastructure, but also in the Swedish people themselves: « Scandinavian companies realize that a business is only as good as its people. »
Etudiant en M2 Droit de l’Economie Numérique à l’Université de Strasbourg.
Passionné par les nouvelles technologies et les problématiques qu’elles engendrent, notamment celles touchant à la propriété intellectuelle et aux données personnelles. Je porte également un vif intérêt à l’actualité web et vidéoludique.
Curieux de tout, je m’intéresse à l’art sous toutes ses formes et pratique la photographie en amateur.