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Can Denmark finish 1st in the global digital race?

With companies such as Skype, JustEat and TrustPilot, Denmark is known to produce innovative and influential global tech successes. But something is rotten in the World’s most digitally advanced country – digital innovation is stalling due to a lack of much-needed IT-skills. If Denmark is to maintain its competitive edge in the future, something needs to change. Experts point to attracting foreign talent and focusing on education and training as a solution to one of Denmark’s large challenges. And if Denmark wants to play with the big boys, US and China, IT skills need to be an integral part of education within all disciplines. We need to speed up!

Number One But Stalling

Denmark is the most digital country in the World. In 2018, the European Commission ranked Denmark as #1 in a benchmark of digital societies (the I-DESI). The Commission’s index rates the 28 EU members states and 17 other key economies. Denmark ranks high on all five of the dimensions measured in the index and comes out as the frontrunner in total. However, Denmark faces some key constraints to upholding this position. According to an article in Harvard Business Review, Denmark is stalling when it comes to the rate of change in digital evolution. The journal points to impediments to innovation as the main cause for Denmark’s slow digital growth. A recent publication by the Danish Ministry of Industry comes to the same conclusion. For example, Denmark is less competitive than for example Sweden, Germany, the UK and Belgium when it comes to companies’ access to finance. And while the Danish government has passed several major plans and legislation to strengthen innovation in recent years, the level of innovation in Denmark has not improved since 2010 relative to the rest of the EU.

How can Denmark remain a digital frontrunner?

Denmark has proved that it can produce innovative and ambitious global tech-companies. So what is in the way of Denmark’s maintaining its position as a front runner when it comes to digital advancement and innovation? How can a country of less than 6 million people aim to compete globally when it comes to setting the international standard for digital development? The rank of #1 digital country is not important in itself but in order for Denmark to be competitive in the future, Danish companies need to be at the forefront of digital evolution. Out of the 25 largest listed companies in Denmark, only one (SimCorp) is predominantly a tech-company. In comparison, the five largest listed companies in the World are tech-companies. We can look to barriers for Danish companies in fully exploiting the potential in the digital revolution in order to assess Denmark’s strength as a future economy.

The founder and CEO of the major Danish tech-consultancy Netcompany, André Rogaczewski, points to a lack of IT-skills among Danish employees, particularly a lack of tech-specialists, as a barrier to continued innovation and growth in the Danish business environment. Rogaczewski, who is involved in several government councils on technology and skills, and a member of the newly created Social Investment Fund, sees the lack of IT-specialists as one of the largest problems the country is facing. In fact, close to four out of ten Danish companies seek in vain for new employees, and tech specialists are particularly needed. According to the chairman of the Confederation of Danish Industry, one solution is to reverse the current tendency to close our doors to foreigners who wish to work in Denmark. The current political climate hinders companies from attracting competent foreign talent.

Furthermore, we need to step on the gas to educate more students in the field of IT, especially women, who are largely underrepresented. It is furthermore crucial to involve IT in educations that do not traditionally involve IT. In order to compete in the future, a broad range of students and employees need to have at least an understanding of technology and its potential. Universities can do a much better job of incorporating technological aspects in all fields of education – because the digital revolution affects all fields of society.

Companies can take action

According to Rogaczewski, companies themselves can also help alleviate this problem. By training employees, without an IT-background, in digital skills, companies can align the skills of their employees with their future needs. If companies and government fail to improve the IT-skills of employees and the amount of graduates with the needed competencies, Denmark faces a major challenge to being able to compete internationally. Considering the speed of the global digital evolution, Denmark needs to address this challenge in order to be able to maintain our lead as a global digital frontrunner. Having produced companies that are strong international players within the fields of medicine, biotech and sustainable energy solutions, Denmark needs to ensure that we can keep producing the innovative leaders of tomorrow. “I am convinced that Denmark has to go from being a small overlooked fairyland to becoming a global frontrunner”, Rogaczewski recently said in a recent article in the newspaper Berlingske. A main area of focus must be ensuring that we have the talent to achieve this.

Want to know more?

André Rogaczewski will join Digi-Talks for a fireside chat on March 28 at Copenhagen Business School. We will discuss the topic of digital skills amongst others for a one-hour interactive talk. You are invited to join us and ask your critical questions to Rogaczewski – whether they relate to skills, technological trends, his experiences as CEO of a major Danish tech-firm, or an entirely different topic.

Please comment below and read more of our articles about the influence of technology in our society here.

References: European Investment Fund, Access to Finance Index:

European Innovation Scoreboard:

”Medarbejdermanglen stiger: Fire ud af ti virksomheder søger forgæves” (DI Business 14-12-17):

”Netcompany-stifter: Danske virksomheder har »et alvorligt problem« – men de kan selv gøre noget ved det” (Berlingske, 29-10-18):

”Where the Digital Economy is Moving the Fastest” (Harvard Business Review, 19-02-2015):

“Vi skal tale mere om dem og det vi skal leve af i fremtiden” (Berlingske, 28-12-2018)

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