“Norway’s ICT infrastructure is among the best in the world”

How would you define e-content in Norway?

E-Content is becoming a term in itself and it is the object of constant scrutiny. Some regard frameworks that facilitate content production, like CRM-systems and other applications, to be e-content. Others think of it in terms of audience experience like this definition from ICT Norway:

“The e-Content activities in Norway are defined as production and online/offline distribution of text, sound, animation, pictures and movies in electronic formats”.

I certainly think that architecture can be more than the people and things that it houses. That despite its function, i.e. facilitating content production, the New Opera House in Oslo is by all definitions an “end user experience” in itself

“The governmental plan “e-Norway 2009″ is listing a series of stimulating projects in the e-health, e-government”

What’s the status of e-content in Norway?

There is a growing marked for e-content in general, more products, higher revenues and a greater demand than ever before.

The eMatch digiBUSINESS Report on e-Content 2004 estimates around 660 million EURO in income from 195 companies from web advertisements, media objects (business information, e-learning, music, games and movies) and digital broadcasting in 2003. In average, 24% of the total income from these companies is related to e-content. 38% of the e-content turnover is from companies registered outside the content sector.

]Which area of e-content (e-health, e-biz, e-culture, e-government, e-entertainment, e-learning, e-science, and e-inclusion) is best developed in Norway?

In Norway, the use of electronic formats and processes are increasing across private and public application areas. The governmental plan “e-Norway 2009″ is listing a series of stimulating projects in the e-health, e-government. A project of special interest is “My page”, enabling every citizen his/her secure portal with individual information. The “e-Norway 2009″-plan also contains a political aim of giving free access to public information, such as geographical data, library information, learning resources etc. The e-government area is especially focused on topics like electronic reporting of periodic data to the public (

Which sector (business, private sector, government or civil society) in Norway is advanced in developing e-content?

The present government have accelerated a series of core public processes like ‘digital signature’, access to public information, citizens homepage etc. Norway is in front on electronic tender processes. E-learning in public schools is being processed in terms of standardization of learning objects in conjunction with learning plans. – Most of these governmental projects are concerned width infrastructure utilizing ITC to create a more cost effective public service. They favour the economic and pragmatic approach rather than the visionary one. Cost savings and direct profit is favoured before cultural gain and digital literacy. The real barrier for the citizen’s homepage “My Page” is not technological; it is cultural. If Ms. Hansen or Mr. Olsen is unable to help him or herself in this digital dish, the project will fail. If Mr. Olsen has been given the chance to adapt through a series of e-initiatives that have stimulated his habits to change, the project may add new layers to the quality of his life.

There is little private venture capital in Norway, and most investors here are looking for a quick exit capitalising on digitalisation of content and models of expression that already exists. We are therefore dependent on public initiatives to drive innovation in e-content forward. Norway have, width it’s wealth, a unique opportunity to built innovative environments setting standards for tings to come. To develop platforms for new media expression that in the future could be as important to Norwegian identity as the Vikings and our Independence Day.

We also need incentives and economic power to push these new concepts on to the both the cultural and commercial marketplace. By demonstrating new forms of e-content and their application we can create a demand among consumers that are unaware of the existence of such products. We need not only funding for the development of new forms of e-content, but also funds to promote these ideas and educate the marked into changing its patterns and habits.

It is vital that we develop a collective digital culture enabling all citizens to take part in the change that we are witnessing. In Norway, the public sector has had a growing awareness of the significance of this change. The private sector, like banks and insurance agencies, may have been the first to utilize the power of ICT but they have, and will only develop concepts that speeds up the transactions that feeds them. The cost of developing platforms for the creation of future e-Content of is a question of cultural agenda. Digital signatures and continuous development of infrastructure are vital ingredients in the development of an economy for e-content, but what e-content?

How would you describe the gradual progress of development of e-content in Norway?

The Internet was made available for ordinary use in the early nineties and today e-mail and netsurfing is a part of most people’s life in Norway. ICT is developing rapidly and is utilised by businesses, public sector and private households. The Norwegian information society is characterised by:

An increasing number of services are offered through internet (public and private i.e. banking, public forms like tax and health services etc.) While 20 percent of the population is still not using the Internet,

38 percent of all private households had broadband access by 2005. Norwegian households have about the same Internet penetration as its Nordic neighbours but Norwegian businesses utilize ICT less than its Nordic counterparts
The turnover in the Norwegian ICT sector was NOK 216.6 billion in 2003 with a 77,8 billion profit.

What major initiatives have influenced the development of e-content in Norway?

The advent of email, online banking and online advertising. Now on a more serious level width Altinn and other serious citizen portals.

What are the major bottlenecks in the path of e-content development in your country?

“It is apparent that it is easier to introduce a commodity and a new business model alongside new cultural paradigms”
Consumer habits and digital literacy. It is vital that the couch potatoes of Norway get used too, and become comfortable width the idea of digital service providers. Business models are vital. Revenues from net shops selling traditional goods have exploded the last year, but these represent the old economy width a new marketing channel. It is interesting to see how difficult it is for traditional broadcasters to make a penny on their well built and comprehensive net portals packed width content and services, while small start-ups make millions selling something like ring tones

Ring tones are a cultural phenomenon that has appeared along the introduction of the mobile phone. It is apparent that it is easier to introduce a commodity and a new business model alongside new cultural paradigms.

The music industry may be the first content marked to fully adopt the “e” and leave its traditional distribution model. The CD will probably be obsolete in just a few years from now. In Norway the adoption of online distribution has been painstakingly slow width all stakeholders clinging to the fence refusing to make the first move. Despite it’s ethnic nature, making it the perfect commodity for online distribution, the stakeholders have not been willing to make the first move. It took an outsider from overseas to drag them into the online music marked.

It is possible that, like ring tones appearing alongside the introduction of the mobile phone, new forms of e-content – not being full of obstacles of the past, may lead to cleaner models of commerce and distribution.

If we want new and interesting e-content beyond the meta-content or re-gurgled texts that we find today we are dependent on marked models that stimulate innovative productions. There has been a focus on the development of digital signatures by the Norwegian authorities. This is a project that could easily lower the barrier for establishing new business models

Another bottleneck is the divide in competence in both private and public sector. Some companies have simply not recognised the importance and impact of ICT and e-content, thus failing to recruit competence and therefore lagging behind. In the automated self-servicing society we are about to create, it is vital that all walks of life are at terms width the shift or we will have the digital divide right in our back yard.

How would you describe the ICT scenario in Norway in terms of infrastructure, penetration, and policies?

There is a general tendency to call for better infrastructure. Infrastructure is simple and easy to understand. As we are starting to realize that we are rapidly becoming dependant on the Internet for most of our daily churns (communication, banking, insurance, citizenship etc), we seem to be calling out for rules, regulations and responsibility. Who will take action if the local backbone falls apart? Who’s responsible when Ms. Olsen is thrown out of her apartment because her modem doesn’t work? These problems are serious enough, and it is indeed a problem that there are few responsible authorities in the development of all these core services of InfoTech society. But do we have the collective skill to understand the impact of these issues? Are we not discussing question of infrastructure as a substitute for more meaningful collective visions for the use and purpose of new technology?

Norway’s ICT infrastructure is among the best in the world. The growth of broadband Internet is explosive. 3g mobile phones are about to enter the marked and will soon be the new standard. But in the public sector there is a relatively poor coverage in schools width a 6:1 Pupil pr. PC ratio. Kids from resourceful homes have an advantage that the poor public funding in schools don’t manage to balance. We have digital access but I am not sure that we have digital competence. Broadband for the sake of ring tones is overkill.

Content and access have been the “chicken and the egg” of the development of the Norwegian ICT debate. Many still think that the difference between content and e-content is infrastructure. That it is only a matter of distribution and fail to realise that the e-content of the future requires a new understanding and new communication skills for all. My hope is that the e-content discussion in Norway moves away from a focus on frameworks and start to emphasise the importance of a collective digital literacy, – a new language for new times.

What’s the future of e-content in Norway?

It is only a question of time before the bandwidth issue, in both wired and wireless (mobile) digital networks, will be gone. Hopefully we will, by that time, know what to do width all this communication power. Media reality will change dramatically and we will probably see a more elaborate of the tendency width skilled niche providers of content from all corners of our collective conscience.
One of the key methods in ensuring the democratic potential of this development is a collective embrace of Open Standards for sharing technology and know-how. If we want a future where independent voices have a place in the world, we need to make sure that we share the technology that amplifies that voice. We must not confuse marked penetration width democracy. Provided that some forces lose out on their mission to IP protect or patent our collective human heritage our children may grow up and still learn a language that isn’t copyrighted by someone.

How do you recognise the best e-content practices in Norway?

After consulting a few ICT organisations and networks, running an evaluation on how we could best preserve the interests of the national ICT scene and at the same time secure a broad representation of projects, we decided to run the nomination process as a national competition. As I myself felt that I couldn’t possibly know all the innards of the scene, a reference group was established for the project. This group consisted of representatives from: The Norwegian UNESCO Commission, ITU, The Polytechnic Society, The Ministry of Education and ICT-Norway. This reference group helped finance the competition and I also asked them to nominate members of the jury.

The project received 49 nomination and we had 39 qualified projects to evaluate. Due to a relatively hasty process, the execution of the national competition in Norway suffered from lack of time to manifest itself in all relevant channels
This led to a relatively small group of projects for the jury to evaluate, and among the 39 projects that in the end qualified, the jury ended up nominating projects in only six categories. In addition to the six nominations, the jury decided to award two honourable mentions in the categories e-Inclusion and e-learning.

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