London’s Daily Telegraph said this country is “perceived as a place where the future happens faster than in other parts of the world.” Tech Radar reports it has “almost as many tech startups as Silicon Valley.” It’s the home of internationally successful giants like Spotify, Skype, Linux, Candy Crush and Minecraft creator Mojang.
Still wondering which it is? Here’s another hint: this Scandinavian country is also the home to Volvo, Saab, Ericsson, IKEA, H&M, ABB and Husqvarna. That’s right—Sweden. Innovative business and high tech seem right at home there. But the question is, why?
Sweden has a population of only about 9.8 million people, versus the United States with over 320 million. The Swedish population ranks it 90th in the world, and yet Sweden ranks 24th in the world for Gross Domestic Production. What could be the secret to their success?
Many in the U.S. might consider high taxes and a so-called ‘welfare state’ as unfavorable conditions for innovation, but Jane Walerud, CEO of Sweden-based Teclo Networks, would beg to differ. “There is free schooling, including getting paid a stipend for attending university, while healthcare is quite inexpensive and pensions are taken care of,” said Walerud. “It is relatively safe to start companies in Sweden, and more and more Swedes realize it.”
“Sweden has a lot of safety nets from an income perspective, which reduces the risk of starting your own company,” said Mattias Ward at Swedish startup Innometrics.
The country’s lower risk, entrepreneur-friendly environment has been breeding new businesses, new ideas, and a higher GDP per capita than the US. And in a digitally-forward thinking country, it’s perhaps not surprising that Sweden’s money may be getting further into the digital act as well. The country’s central bank is now considering going a bit beyond simple digital banking to issuing its own digital currency. Sweden’s Riksbank said it’s feeling pressure to make the switch as domestic cash use has declined — according to the report, the number of notes in circulation has declined 40% since 2009.
And it’s not just Swedish money that’s going higher tech.
The Swedish government’s Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) is deploying a new document management system in an effort to modernize further. The new system touts improved efficiency, ease of use, and better search features – all thanks to improved digital capabilities.
“The change was driven by the expectation for all Swedish government agencies to work in a more digital way,” said Magnus Einarsson, Enterprise Architect at MSB, “but also the expectation of our employees to have modern tools that are more similar to what they use in their everyday life.”
As a government agency, MSB is also highly concerned with security. It handles potentially sensitive matters such as civil protection, public safety, and emergency management. The new case and document management system offer increased traceability and more stringent access control of various types of information.
Einarsson also highlighted improvements which will allow for better collaboration, including a portal for working on projects and tasks with partners external to the agency. Said the leader, “No one works in isolation today. You always have other agencies, companies, citizens that you interact with, so you need to exchange information in a secure environment.”
MSB is not alone in concentrating on digital ways of working. In 2015, the Management Events’ Executive Trend Survey, found 58% of government organizations in Sweden focus their IT efforts on digitalization of services and processes.
When a country with an economy as healthy as Sweden’s is focused so keenly on digital technology, it’s definitely worth noting. The Swedish government and its businesses understand how important cutting-edge technology is in a digital world.
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