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Towards a more equal digital society

2020 will go down in history for several reasons.

Kimmo Alkio / December 18, 2020

COVID-19 not only created a health crisis, but affected people’s livelihoods, put a major strain on the global economy and placed limitations on everyday life. At the same time, interaction of all kinds became virtual.

In fact, this exceptional year has accelerated the digitalization of society in many ways. At our Capital Markets Day in early December, we estimated that the pandemic may have accelerated digital development by as much as three years.

Amid all the uncertainty, organizations did not stop in their tracks. Instead, they doubled down on digital solutions to not only push through the crisis, but to emerge stronger as the pandemic passes. This development is significant for the competitiveness of Nordic businesses, for sustainable development and even for the national economy.

But with opportunities come threats: 2020 also increased some of the risks that may jeopardize a sustainable and equal digitalization process. Going digital only fully benefits economies and society as a whole if the digital tools and services we use are trusted, equal access to them is guaranteed and the benefits of digitalization are universally understood.

So much depends on trust – people will use digital services only if they trust them.

Our Security Barometer suggests that public trust in digitalization in the Nordics requires more work, although there are small signs of increasing trust.

One challenge is that public trust in digital services is weakened by, for instance, threats to information security, which reduces their use and therefore their development. However, the stable society and world-renowned information security expertise in the Nordics provide a good basis for further development.

Digital inequality is another challenge we face today. The pandemic has pushed people to work remotely and made digital solutions for productive work a critical success factor for many organizations. Basic services are increasingly moving into the digital platforms, yet our increasingly multicultural and aging society means that we must remember to safeguard social equality.

When digital development accelerates so rapidly, we run the risk of overlooking special needs. It is more important than ever that service providers and developers make certain that services are widely available and easy to use so that no-one is left outside our digital society.

Still, the enormous possibilities presented by digitalization outweigh the threats. Digitalization plays an ever-greater role in meeting the most important challenges of mankind, in generating innovation and in supporting us in everyday life. Technology allows us to provide different sectors with digital solutions that significantly reduce emissions.

New technologies such as blockchain, IoT, AI and cloud services make the efficient use of real-time data possible and provide a way to reduce our consumption of energy and resources as well as optimize our logistics networks. 

We cannot afford to turn our back on progress. Open cooperation will increase trust in digital services and support widespread public access to the benefits of digitalization. We must make certain that, even when the pace of progress is fast, no-one is left behind.

Kimmo Alkio
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