Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Denmark in EU theme collected

Here is a compilation of posts on my three Euroblogs regarding Denmark in the European Union.

Eurooppaoikeus (in Finnish)

Grahnblawg (in Swedish)

Grahnlaw (in English)

Grahnblawg (in Swedish)

Grahnlaw (in English)

Country-specific recommendation

Just after the blog series on Denmark, the European Commission presented its 2017 spring package, based on the National Reform Programme and the Convergence Programme, together with the Commission’s spring forecast 2017, but roughly a summary of the country report we discussed earlier:

Recommendation for a COUNCIL RECOMMENDATION on the 2017 National Reform Programme of Denmark and delivering a Council opinion on the 2017 Convergence Programme of Denmark; Brussels, 22.5.2017 COM(2017) 504 final

In the end, the Commission wants the Council to issue  one country-specific recommendation to Denmark: Foster competition in the domestically oriented services sector.

Ralf Grahn

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Denmark’s Digital Strategy 2016-2020

The blog entry Digital transformation in Denmark already mentioned Denmark’s digital strategy.
Digitaliseringsstyrelsen (the Danish Agency for Digitisation) offers us an introduction and an opportunity to download A Stronger and More Secure Digital Denmark: Digital Strategy 2016-2020 (May 2016), agreed by the central government, regions and municipalities.  

Naturally, Nordic readers can find an introduction and the strategy in Danish: Et stærkere og mere trygt digitalt samfund: Den fællesoffentlige digitaliseringsstrategi 2016-2020 (Maj 2016).

Digital public sector

The Danish Digital Strategy 2016-2020 concerns the whole public sector: all levels and all service providers (page 5):

The government Digital Strategies concern the authorities at all levels of government, from state, to regions to municipalities - i.e. both the administrative institutions such as ministries, agencies and the municipal and regional administrations, and the executive institutions such as hospitals, public schools, universities, etc.
Page 13 offers a summary of the 15 year transition during previous digital strategies before the vision is presented:

Vision: Public sector digitisation creates value and growth, it provides efficiency improvements and it secures the confidence of Danish people in the digital society.

The Digital Strategy strives to achieve three goals (on page 14 briefly, later specific initiatives in more detail):

Digital solutions must be easy-to-use, quick and ensure high quality
The Danish public should see that public-sector digitisation adds real value to their lives. The public sector must offer high-quality digital services and digital welfare solutions. Digitisation should make life easier, make it easier for people to help themselves, and improve the quality of public services. The authorities will share relevant information and work together better for the individual person or business. Furthermore, digitisation will contribute to a more cohesive and efficient public sector.

Public sector digitisation must provide good conditions for growth
Digitisation will make it easier to run a business and will contribute to the Government’s goal to reduce the administrative burden on the business community by DKK 3 billion by 2020. The ambition is that the administrative burden on businesses from reporting to public authorities is to be removed through automatic business reporting. All solutions aimed at businesses will be integrated in the Virk.dk portal, and businesses will meet a public sector
that fully supports their digital transition. The business community will have access to more public-sector data that can form the basis for new business opportunities and innovation.

Security and confidence must be in focus at all times
The great confidence Danes have in each other and in the public sector is the foundation of Danish welfare. We must safeguard this sense of security in an ever-more digital society. Therefore, we will improve information security in the public sector and enhance the digital competences of citizens and of businesses. A digital infrastructure for the public sector that is crucial for society must be robust and it must meet the needs of its users. Moreover, Denmark will be an inclusive society in which everyone can participate, both those who are ready to digitise, and those who cannot use the digital solutions or who do not have access to them.

The  citizens’ portal to public services borger.dk has a slightly different angle in English: lifeindenmark.dk.

Digital growth

The section Public sector digitisation must provide good conditions for growth (from page 34) focuses on a better environment for the business community, public sector data as a growth driver and an efficient utilities sector.

Regarding the use of public sector data, the Digital Strategy outlines (page 34, more from page 38):

The public sector has large amounts of data which businesses can use to optimise their procedures, and which can form the basis for new business opportunities and innovation. Therefore, the public sector should make more public sector data available to businesses and support exploitation of this data by businesses.

Data must to a greater extent be improved and made available in a number of specific areas in which there is deemed to be a great potential for a more efficient and effective public sector and new business opportunities for Danish businesses. This includes data on waste, underground infrastructure, energy, topography, climate and water.

The business portal virk.dk has been devised to serve the needs of enterprises.

Digital security

The third goal, security and confidence must be in focus at all times, translates into projects concerning public sector protection of data, robust digital infrastructure and digitisation for everyone (from page 46), including:

The public sector is to use and manage data on citizens and businesses with care and with the appropriate level of security. Information security in the public sector must be improved. Therefore, all authorities will have to commit to the principles set out in the international information security standard ISO27001. This also means that public employees should have, and be familiar with, clear guidelines on how to store and manage personal data on citizens and confidential data on businesses.

Managing progress

The Digital Strategy outlines how the public sector in Denmark is going to manage the ongoing process of adaptation to a digital society (page 59), including a project portfolio steering committee.  


Denmark’s Digital Strategy 2016-2020 offers a general map of the transition to digital in the country ranked number one in the European Union.

I hope that this blog post, which has just skimmed the surface, can inspire others to make the Digital Strategy their starting point for further reading and learning about digital transformation.

Ralf Grahn

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Digital transformation in Denmark

We glanced at the fourteen System Initiatives under work at the World Economic Forum (WEF), intertwined with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs).

The blog entry Future-proof Denmark? ended with a question mark.

If quick glances raised a question, could brief looks offer indications?

Digital Transformation Initiative (DTI)

The Digital Transformation Initiative by the World Economic Forum could offer one approach to future-proof. The title page of the 71-page DTI executive summary catches the reader’s attention by highlighting the potential to unlock $100 trillion for business and society. It offers an inspirational theme park of emerging technologies about to change life.

The societal implications start on page 22, but our themes really meet on page 25, when the Digital Transformation Initiative summary picks up work on unlocking digital potential in Denmark: more than $50 billion of value over the next decade (in a country with a 5.7 million population).

Even if there are considerable business gains to be made, e-commerce, connected travel services, the sharing economy and assisted driving seem to offer even more potential benefits to society.

The summary crystallises the choice with regard to sustainable development (page 60):

An important choice must be made: between a more open, inclusive and interconnected world, or one that is closed, siloed and unequal.

But the better choice requires overcoming the inhibitors to transformation, with implications for business leaders, as well as governments and policy-makers (from p. 62).

Europe’s Digital Progress Report 2017

How well is the digital transformation under way in Denmark?

It cannot be all bad, since the recently published Europe’s Digital Progress Report 2017 (EDPR) country profile (available in English and Danish) places Denmark first among the EU member states, according to the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) 2017, ahead of Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Estonia and Austria.

The Digital Economy and Society Index 2017 rates connectivity, human capital, use of Internet, integration of digital technology and digital public services. DESI 2017 offers the following summary for EU members wanting to emulate success:

Denmark ranks 1st out of the 28 EU Member States and it progressed at a higher pace than the EU average. Denmark made progress in most dimensions. Denmark performed very well on Connectivity, thanks to the widest 4G coverage in Europe and the increase in take-up of fast connections. 94% of Danish citizens are online and the vast majority have at least basic digital skills. However, the share of ICT specialists stagnated. On the supply side, Denmark made outstanding progress in the use of digital technologies by enterprises, leading the EU and the world rankings. Denmark is strong in the delivery of online public services thanks to a consistent long-term national strategy.

Denmark belongs to the High performing cluster of countries.

Denmark is a world leader in digitisation and the new umbrella governmental digital plan, namely, Digital Strategy 2016-2020, presented in May 2016, aims at further enhancing close public sector collaboration to deliver good, efficient and coherent services to the public and businesses.

The individual factors are discussed in more detail on the rest of the eleven pages of the country profile.

Digital Denmark

The EU Commission already mentioned Denmark’s digital strategy.

Digitaliseringsstyrelsen (the Danish Agency for Digitisation) offers us an introduction and an opportunity to download A Stronger and More Secure Digital Denmark: Digital Strategy 2016-2020, agreed by the central government, regions and municipalities.  

Naturally, Nordic readers can find an introduction and the strategy in Danish: Et stærkere og mere trygt digitalt samfund: Den fællesoffentlige digitaliseringsstrategi 2016-2020 (Maj 2016).

Ralf Grahn

Friday, 19 May 2017

Future-proof Denmark?

Our latest blog entry about the Nordic EU member state, Two freedoms of competitive Denmark, highlighted the relative absence of poisonous corruption and media repression.

Here we are going to take a look at what what it takes to shape a future-proof society.  

WEF Annual Meeting 2017

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) report from the Annual Meeting 2017, the gathering focused on five challenges: strengthening global collaboration, revitalising economic growth, reforming capitalism, preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and restoring a sense of shared identity.

Each theme is introduced in the report, against the background of remarkable retreats from globalisation and new protagonists of global cooperation, the framework for one humanity on our common planet.  

At a regional level, the European Union’s Europe 2020 strategy (EU2020) for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, the Political Guidelines of the Juncker Commission and the national reform programmes of the member states, such as Denmark’s NRP, contain many of the elements of the fourteen WEF System Initiatives.

WEF System Initiatives

However, if the EU and its members want to be at the cutting edge, they need to adapt to the emerging qualities the System Initiatives bring. The projects were introduced in the WEF meeting report and later briefly described (pages 41-42):

Leaders in Davos called for collaborative action to drive economic growth while safeguarding social inclusion. The 14 System Initiatives are the vehicles through which the Forum will respond to this call to action and drive change in the coming year. Two themes will be woven throughout the work of all of the systems. The first theme is responding to challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution through driving more accountable systems of control, mechanisms for policy development and space for public deliberation. The second is ensuring that the Forum’s work is complementary to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs), from mobilizing private capital, technology and know-how for inclusive and sustainable investments to the compelling economic case for business leadership and engagement. From increasing financial inclusion to defining the workforce of the future, from responding to epidemics to strengthening infrastructure, the System Initiatives will focus on driving lasting, systemic change through public-private cooperation.   

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs) omnipresent, here are just the  headlines of the reform agenda projects to follow:

Shaping the Future of Consumption
Shaping the Future of Education, Gender and Work
Shaping the Future of Digital Economy and Society
Shaping the Future of Energy
Shaping the Future of Growth and Social Inclusion
Shaping the Future of Environment and Natural Resource Security
Shaping the Future of Financial and Monetary Systems
Shaping the Future of Information and Entertainment
Shaping the Future of Mobility
Shaping the Future of Food Security and Agriculture
Shaping the Future of International Trade and Investment
Shaping the Future of Production
Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare
Shaping the Future of Long-Term Investing, Infrastructure and Development  

EU and Denmark?  

Here, I believe, the European Commission should go beyond drafting recommendation to the member states, by using the European Semester process in order to inspire cutting edge responses to global challenges.

Is Denmark future-proof? After European Semester reading, the National Reform Programme and international comparisons, I venture that Denmark has a sound base for reform policies. But I am less sure about the qualitative aspects: if the actions under way are radical or forceful enough to improve Denmark’s competitiveness.

Do we need to eat more of the pudding containing the proof?

Ralf Grahn

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Two freedoms of competitive Denmark

In the blog entry Competitiveness: Denmark’s happy achievers we looked at a few international comparisons regarding happiness, the good life, competitiveness and the business environment in Denmark.

Here we are going to look at two freedoms necessary for a good society: freedom from the toxins of corruption and media repression.  

Corruption perceptions

No country is totally free from the poison of corruption, but among the 176 probed by Transparency International in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2016, Denmark and New Zealand come out on top (followed by Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Singapore, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom).

Here you can open or download the 12-page brochure about the survey of corruption in the public sector. The leaflet starts by stating:

Corruption and inequality feed off each other, creating a vicious circle
between corruption, unequal distribution of power in society, and unequal
distribution of wealth.

If you want to know more about the fight against corruption, you can find more position papers and other publications from Transparency International, as well as news and information on the TI home page.

Media freedom  

For freedom of expression and information, the 2017 World Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranks 180 countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists.

The criteria used in the questionnaire are pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.

In the 2017 World Press Freedom (the customary, but somewhat antiquated term) ranking Denmark was fourth in the world, behind Norway, Sweden and Finland, but ahead of the Netherlands, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Jamaica, Belgium and Iceland, with some more index details here.


Almost free from the poisons of public sector corruption and media repression, Denmark enjoys extraordinary basic societal health, which lays the foundation for reform policies and constant improvement of life and competitiveness, if politicians and citizens are prepared to make the effort.

Ralf Grahn

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Competitiveness: Denmark’s happy achievers

Continued reform and progress are main challenges for governments and administrations during the era of globalisation. International comparisons and intensive contacts within the EU institutions offer member states opportunities for improvement and chances to learn from each other.
Having looked at Denmark in the European Union and with regard to the European Semester in Finnish on Eurooppaoikeus, in English here on Grahnlaw and in Swedish on Grahnblawg, we move to international comparisons in order to offer avenues for reform by the country and others.

In this blog post we look at comparisons regarding happiness, the good life, competitiveness and the business environment in Denmark.

World Happiness Report 2017
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness still seem to be worthy causes for governments instituted by citizens. Among the 155 countries ranked by the World Happiness Report 2017 (page 20) Denmark scored second, just after Norway, but ahead of the rest of the top ten: Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. (We take note that five Nordic countries fill half of the top ten places.)

OECD Better Life Index
Another international comparison for Denmark is the OECD’s Better Life Index measuring the good life from a number of angles, described and ranked among 38 developed economies (35 OECD members plus Brazil, Russia and South Africa).

Eleven topics reflect what the OECD has identified as essential to well-being in terms of material living conditions (housing, income, jobs) and quality of life (community, education, environment, governance, health, life satisfaction, safety and work-life balance). Each topic is built on one to four specific indicators.
Frequently Asked Questions offer more information to those interested.  

Global Competitiveness Report
According to the Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017, from the World Economic Forum (WEF), Denmark was ranked twelfth among 138 economies, the same as the previous year.

As for other countries, Denmark’s country profile (pages 162-163) offers a detailed picture of strength and weaknesses through the rigorous health-check by indexes and sub-indexes around the twelve pillars of the developing global competitiveness index.

The executive opinion survey highlighted tax rates, tax regulations, restrictive labour regulations, access to financing and government bureaucracy as the five most problematic issues for doing business.   

The fascinating WEF report with a broad perspective grapples with the importance of skills and innovation in the light of the fourth industrial revolution.

Doing Business 2017

There is a short presentation on the World Bank’s Doing Business 2017 web page, where the 14th edition can be opened or downloaded:

Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunity for All, a World Bank Group flagship publication, is the 14th in a series of annual reports measuring the regulations that enhance business activity and those that constrain it. Doing Business presents quantitative indicators on business regulations and the protection of property rights that can be compared across 190 economies—from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe—and over time.
Doing Business measures regulations affecting 11 areas of the life of a business. Ten of these areas are included in this year’s ranking on the ease of doing business: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency. Doing Business also measures labor market regulation, which is not included in this year’s ranking.
Data in Doing Business 2017 are current as of June 1, 2016. The indicators are used to analyze economic outcomes and identify what reforms of business regulation have worked, where and why.

What does Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunity for All tell us about business regulation in Denmark?

The country table for Denmark (page 202) offers a more detailed view of the country’s ease of doing business rank as third out of 190 economies, after New Zealand and Singapore, but ahead of Hong Kong SAR, the Republic of Korea, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, Sweden and Macedonia (FYROM).

Index of Economic Freedom
The 2017 Index of Economic Freedom from the  Heritage Foundation’s is grouped into four broad categories, or pillars, of economic freedom:
  1. Rule of Law (property rights, government integrity, judicial effectiveness)
  2. Government Size (government spending, tax burden, fiscal health)
  3. Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom)
  4. Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom)
Given the libertarian perspective, it is hardly astonishing that the Nordic welfare state Denmark ends up number 18 in the  the country ranking (among 180 economies), but attitudes among world business leaders are worth considering.    
The 2017 Index of Economic Freedom deals with Europe (from page 197). The table on economic freedom in Europe offers an overview of scores for Denmark and the rest of the countries in the region (pages 203-204).

Denmark may be fiscally sound, but the Heritage index disagrees with the tax burden and abhors the level of government spending.

The country pages concerning Denmark (226-227) start with the following summary, before commenting briefly on the different factors:

Denmark’s economy performs notably well in regulatory efficiency. Open-market policies sustain flexibility, competitiveness, and large flows of trade and investment, and the transparent and efficient regulatory and legal environment encourages robust entrepreneurial activity. Banking regulations are sensible, and lending practices have been prudent. Monetary stability is well maintained, and the judicial system provides strong protection for property rights.

Government spending has been expansive, and the overall tax regime needed to finance the ever-growing scope of government has become more burdensome and complex. However, such institutional assets as high degrees of business efficiency and regulatory flexibility have counterbalanced some of the shortcomings of heavy social spending.

However, in terms of economic freedom Denmark has been on a slightly downward trend.


Detailed study of these comparisons offers stuff for a structural reform agenda, but we are going to look at a few more in a later blog post.

Ralf Grahn