Expert Eiriksson is critical of Denmark’s leading position in digitization
Ms. Eirikssen, Denmark is considered a country of hygge with a very satisfied population and is at the forefront of digitization internationally. That goes together well, doesn’t it?
Of course, digitization makes many things easier and more accessible for citizens. You can contact authorities at any time and send or receive documents. There is huge potential in that. Except that things couldn’t go fast enough in Denmark. We don’t properly take care of the people who have been thrown off the digital express train
What are the reasons for the high speed?
The most important is that we have such an incredible amount of data on citizens. The door opener for this is the personal number introduced in 1968. It gives us unique opportunities to digitize government work.
In your opinion, what role does the trust of the population play in using this data for digitization?
In general, in Denmark there is a high level of trust in the use of data by the authorities. Although the media keep reporting how things went wrong again. We have long had extremely generous opportunities for authorities to collect and share personal information. Citizens were used to this even before digitization. In carrying them out, trust in the state is now crucial.
They estimate that 20 to 25 percent of people are left behind in this process. Where does this high number come from?
They were based on official estimates of 17 to 22 percent. But since they have forgotten the number of unreported cases with those most affected. These are the ones who don’t even know that the state has made it compulsory for them to have an electronic mailbox. The group is identical to the generally socially weakest in society. These people have no contact with the authorities and have no idea that, for example, a penalty notice has just been served on them.
They criticize the lack of legal certainty. What do you mean by that?
I did not once come across the term legal certainty in the documents on state digitization. It’s always just a question: Can you or can’t you? I find that disturbing. The mantra that digitization must continue as quickly as possible still applies. One does not stop to evaluate the experiences made. My investigations and the many recent reports by those affected in the newspaper Politiken have shown that many more than the 25 percent of those who are digitally dependent sometimes have enormous problems. Including me. So far they have not dared to express this, but are ashamed of their problem and have discreetly sought help from relatives. Now they are finally speaking up.
Will the Danish state also become a digital pioneer in the use of robots and artificial intelligence?
I have no doubt that Denmark will adopt everything that is technologically feasible. We are already busy with pilot projects. I think that’s okay, except that citizens:’inside become guinea pigs who didn’t ask for it. For example, when algorithms evaluate information about problems families have with their children and decisions are made based on this.
What suggestion do you have for fair digitization with legal certainty?
My most important recommendation is: digital self-service and digital mail traffic with authorities must be voluntary. A large part of the population wants this, combined with more help with problems. I very much hope that this will now be a campaign issue for us.
Interview: Thomas Borchert