how to improve digital services and content in norway
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).
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.