Sweden ranks 4th of 27 EU Member States in the 2022 edition of the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI). Overall, Sweden performs well (as it was the case in the last couple of years) and scores above the overall EU average although the progress is not as fast as previously. The country ranks 4th in human capital, and this continues to be a strong performance compared to other countries in the EU. The general population has both a high degree of basic digital skills (67 %) and above basic digital skills (36 %) which shows that Sweden is going in the right direction to reach the Digital Decade target of 80 % of the population with at least basic digital skills by 2030. On connectivity, Sweden has fallen back to 9th place and is below the EU average on 5G coverage. Specifically, Sweden scores far below the EU average (66 %) in 5G coverage of populated areas at 18 %. Additionally, Sweden ranks 9th in the field of digital public services. The population in Sweden, the companies and the public sector are highly digitally mature. Sweden, together with Finland, has the most digitalised SMEs (86% having a basic level of digital intensity respectively). Moreover, Finland, Denmark and Sweden rank highest overall in the digital transformation of businesses.
Microsoft’s Digital Futures Index measures the digitalization level of 16 European countries, including Sweden. The Index brings data about the current level of digitalization of the country and detects the most successful areas, but also the areas where there is more work to be done to accelerate the digital transformation process. Digitalization is perceived through 5 categories of digital development: Digital Business, Digital Government and Public Sector, Digital Infrastructure, Digital Sector, and Human Capital. The overall score of Sweden’s digital development is 159, while the CEE average is 100. This makes Sweden one of the frontrunners in digital development.
In 2018, the Swedish National Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition was formed and has grown consistently in size throughout 2019 and 2020. The coalition is now a multi-stakeholder partnership who are actively involved in promoting digital skills and competence in Sweden. The coalition operates as a member-oriented network and aims to create collaborative and inclusive environments for its members to meet and discuss. With around 30 member organizations, the coalition represents a diverse range of sectors, including government agencies, universities, industry associations, private sector representatives, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Overview of state strategies and national initiatives
Sweden’s current digitalisation strategy The Swedish Digitisation strategy adopted in 2017. This original strategy is accompanied by other strategies, such as the National Approach to AI (2019) and the Data Strategy (2021). Even though the strategy has been adopted 5 years ago, it aims to make Sweden the frontrunner in unlocking the potential of digital transformation, and it has relevant accompanied strategies. Sweden has also adopted a National digitalisation strategy for the school system (2017) followed by an Action plan (2019). Of the 18 initiatives proposed in the Action plan, 13 are underway.
The Swedish National Agency for Education has submitted a proposal to the government for a new National digitalization Strategy for the School system for the years 2023–2027. This proposal was submitted on 19 December 2022, and the Swedish National Agency for Education writes, among other things, that the purpose of the strategy is to point out a common direction for the continued work and thus increase equivalence in preschool, school and adult education.
The Swedish Recovery and Resilience Plan has a total allocation of EUR 3.3 billion in grants and focuses on addressing challenges in relation to green and digital transitions and human capital. Sweden’s digital challenges focus on the need to realise the transformative potential of digitalisation. To do so, they aim to increase the number of study places in higher vocational education and expand education at universities and other higher education institutions. This is necessary to address the current shortage of experts in the Information and Communication Technology sector.
The annual national event called ‘Digitalidag‘ or ‘Digitaltoday’ focuses on the digital aspects of daily life and brings together public and private stakeholders from various societal sectors to encourage people to be a part of digital development. On October 14, 2022, the fourth edition of Digitalidag was held. 250 stakeholders from the business community, municipalities, authorities, libraries, academia, civil society and other societal actors participated and together arranged 1000 activities in 215 locations throughout Sweden.
Digital Skills Sweden Initiative has created multiple reports that cover various aspects related to digital skills. These reports include an analysis of the estimated shortage of 70,000 competent ICT professionals by 2024, look at how to define digital excellence; analyse job ads, provide future scenarios on how the availability of digital excellence may look depending on different policy decisions and how trends develop. The initiative has also presented a preliminary proposal to promote the supply of digital skills, which encompasses measures such as advancing education and research, developing a specialized council for cooperation, and improving the availability of statistics and projections. The final report was released on October 31, 2022.
They, for example, analyse the estimated shortage of 70 000 skilled ICT workers by 2024; look at how to define digital excellence; analyse job ads, provide future scenarios on how the availability of digital excellence may look depending on different policy decisions and how trends develop. The initiative has also made a preliminary proposal of how to promote the supply of digital excellence skills. The proposals range from boosting education and research; improved cooperation by creating a specialised Council and to improve the availability of statistics and forecasts.
Funding opportunities for upskilling and reskilling to support the digital competences of individuals and organizations are available in the form of loans, grants and financial instruments. For the period 2021 – 2026 most of the activities in digital transformation are financed through Recovery and Resilience facility but also as activities in Horizon, Erasmus+, ESIF and EEA grant schemes. You may find more on the page of the Swedish National Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition and in the article on the Digital Skills and Jobs Platform.