I’m sipping coffee at Stockfleth’s (found via Foursquare, great place) after sleeping my way to Oslo on the night train from Bergen. I’m reading documents and googling in preparation for the first meeting of Digitutvalget, a government appointed panel that has been asked to map challenges to the development of digital services and content in Norway and suggest improvements. As our mandate states, Norway is one of the most wired countries in the world, with very high rates of citizen access to the internet, and high popular adoption of new devices and (some?) services – in terms of percentage of the population on Facebook, for instance, we rank very high. But Norway is only just at average levels in terms of sales of goods and services online. Challenges, the mandate suggests, may have to do with technology (e.g. lack of open standards or platforms, security), market maturity (accessibility of, trust in digital services), regulation (e.g. licencing, procedures for rights clearance, geo-crippling) and competition (e.g. closed development platforms, being bound to one service because of lacking interoperability).

Computer Kids

I’ve never been on a government panel before and I’m excited to have the opportunity to see how such a panel works, and that I’ll have a wonderful opportunity to learn a lot more about this area. Eleven of us will be meeting more or less monthly for a year, which amounts to a lot of learning about what is obviously a key issue in digital culture.

While I know a lot about social media and user-generated content and services, I have plenty to learn about regulations and what kinds of political, legal or financial frameworks encourage digital services and content. The EU’s Digital Agenda for Europe, published this spring, is an explicit inspiration for our panel’s work, and part of what we’re supposed to do is compare Norway’s strategies in the area to other countries “that it’s natural to compare ourselves to”. There are a couple of “study trips” in our provisional agenda, which sounds exciting. We’re also supposed to use the findings of Mediest¯tteutvalget and Medieansvarsutvalget, which has received major criticism online because apparently there was nobody with knowledge of online media on the panel (though Eli Skogerb¯ has researched social media and Fl¯isbonn is described as a “technologist”).

In addition, I’m looking forwards to meeting the group of people who make up the panel. I don’t think I’ve met any of them, but some I know of – like HÂkon Wium Lie, who invented CSS, runs Opera, and fights for open standards and our right to read digital information, and the musician Per Martinsen, half of the duo Frost, who’ve used some innovative distribution methods. The leader of the panel is Torgeir Waterhouse, who runs IKT-Norge, the industry organisation for ICTs in Norway. He’s on Twitter as @tawaterhouse. There’s a lawyer specialising in intellectual property, Kristine Madsen. Thomas Nortvedt is another lawyer who’s the Head of Section Digital Services at The Norwegian Consumer Council and has blogged about how the book industry (for instance) should make it easier for consumers to buy and access legitimate ebooks rather than cursing about pirates. Beathe Due (@beathe) is a researcher at Telenor who completed her PhD at the University of Oslo in 2009, concluding that technology doesn’t (by itself) improve democracy (Forventningers betydninger: IKT, lokalpolitisk deltakelse og engasjement. Per Egil Pedersen is a professor at NHH (another Bergener!) who works with service innovation, interactive marketing and more, and has a blog on the topic called Tjenesteinnovasjon. Toril Nag runs an electricity company and is on all manner of interesting boards having to do with technology and culture, including the VERDIKT program at the Norwegian Research Council, Altibox (digital TV and more) where she is chairman of the board, and she’s previously been involved in oil companies and more. Tone Hodd¯ BakÂs is an expert on information security and also teaches computer science at Gj¯vik University College. And J¯rund Leknes is a politician and programmer who specialises in open source projects, is on the board of Wikimedia Norge and has won programming contests.

So it’s an interesting team and an interesting project. Oh, and if you have any opinions on the topic: let me know! I’m going to need all the knowledge and input I can get.

8 thoughts on “how to improve digital services and content in norway

  1. Bente Kalsnes

    How to improve digital services and content in Norway by @jilltxt http://t.co/ukyNDgsx You're doing important work, good luck!

  2. L. Cecilie Wian

    Oh i wish i was you. This is such an intresting topic. And both open source and crowd source is very potent areas (i’d say a nessecerity for invention), that struggle in norway. I wonder where your study trips are going, the netherlands? germany? finland?

  3. Linda Elen Olsen

    RT @benteka How to improve digital services and content in Norway by @jilltxt http://t.co/6TKFYXRJ You're doing important work, good luck!

  4. Scott Rettberg

    It’s interesting that the list of challenges never mentions the word creativity. Not to knock the list of challenges they have there, but it seems to me that Norway could do a great deal more to encourage artists, writers, and entrepreneurs to focus on the creation of digital content. When the ELMCIP Project had its pedagogy seminar in Sweden, we heard from one presenter who described a number of government-funded initiatives to connect creative producers (from the student level to professionals) with digital media enterprise — just to provide one example. If the panel is simply about how law can facilitate a better environment for digital content, this might be irrelevant. But I hope people will also think about how environments can be created to better enable creative producers to produce for the digital media. Market trends can be followed, but they can also be led by facilitating creative innovation.

  5. Jill Walker Rettberg

    Good point, Scott, and research funding and infrastructure as well as education were mentioned in the initial discussions yesterdays as relevant areas we’ll need to look into. Cecilie, the study trips aren’t decided yet, will be interesting to see!

  6. Johan

    Very interesting, and something that I’ve been wondering about myself, as an immigrant to Norway.

    I’d guess that a key reason why Norway lags behind when it comes to online goods and services is not tech itself, but market regulations in general.

    Take the book business, for instance: Price regulations pre-dating the internet are there in order to preserve and protect the publishing companies’ old business model, so it’s hardly surprising that online book stores haven’t taken over the market. (This is just a hunch: I don’t know how sales are distributed between brick-and-mortar and online book stores, but I guess you could compare with Sweden, where the book market has been deregulated for decades and where online book stores seem to have transformed the entire business).

    So perhaps you should also consider this as a fifth factor that has little to do with technology – or perhaps someone deliberately put that outside of your mandate? (Cf. Matkjedeutvalget which was barred from investigating the most probable cause of parallel problems in the food industry: this country’s protectionist policies and trade barriers).

    As we say in Swedish: Som man ropar får man svar… 🙂

  7. Jill

    That’s a good point, Johan – I didn’t realize online book stores were big in Sweden. What about e-books? In our last meeting we discussed the publishing industry, and heard representatives from book shops and publishers, which was interesting. Definitely more to understand there though.

    Norsk kulturråd is planning a report on digital publishing, which should also be interesting.

    1. Thomas Brevik

      Ebooks have been available for sale in Sweden, and lending in libraries, for almost 10 years now. They used to have a DRM-free system with digital watermarks, but are now switching to the Adobe DRM-system. Ebooks are growing in popularity with the latest Zlatan biography exploding the ebook sales, and lending. Definetly a case for comparison with the norwegian system indeed.
      Here is a relevant article on the ebook development of swedish libraries. http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=83&artikel=4883271

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