Connecting with Nicolai Mohr Balle, Program Manager of The National Digitalisation Program
Q: Nicolai, the Faroe Islands are known to be very ambitious when it comes to Digitalisation and Telecommunication – not only as a service, but also as a strategy to provide and develop a wider choice of business opportunities for young people. Why is that necessary?
A: IT and tourism are 2 main areas for development in the Faroe Islands and the ambition is that these industries could act as a supplement for the fishery industry as the traditional main means of income for the local people here. The National Digitalisation Program is a game-changer for the IT industry on the islands and we aim at both data and the systems to be kept here and to help build a great expertise locally.
We need a lot of talent in this development and we want to motivate and attract our young people to stay or at least come back to the islands. So we want to offer them great reasons by being leaders in many disciplines.
Q: The key players in the Faroe Islands and the government want to be not only the fastest in connectivity in the world, but also leaving nobody out among the citizens, even on the remotest spots of the islands. How do you go about this vision and what does the Digitalisation Program consist of?
A: The program got kick-started in 2014, initiated through an official visit to Estonia, where both our Minister of Finance as well as the Minister of Economy participated and got inspired to introduce e-governance to the Faroe Islands. A budget was set up in 2015 to build a sound strategy. Only after having this in place, implementation of the program elements started in 2016.
The National Digitalisation Program is set up for realization over the period 2016-2020 and presently we are working on the first 2 out of 4 main project initiatives.
Main project initiative and basis for all following steps is to create a) an e-identity which will be compliant to international regulations, the so-called EIDAS regulation. To provide – and have – an e-identity means to be owner of a secure personal key and digital identification for all citizens and businesses, which can be used by all providers of digital services both private and public. Additionally the digital identity will allow citizens to access their personal data, such as tax and health information – and, it can be used as a digital signature and to give others power of attorney.
Main project b) is the Digital Portal, where all digital services will be gradually implemented, in order to increase the value and efficiency of public services.
The process will reduce office capacity, save resources in the public sector and provide customers and citizens with faster and better services. It will be essential for the success of the Program that both citizens and businesses use the developed solutions.
Both project initiatives are planned to be ready in April 2019!
Once these basic structures are available, we will develop and collect c) Basic Data. That means that all fundamental information used by a great majority of the public sector, citizens and businesses, will be collected in the system. To save time and resources, information will only be submitted and registered once and will then provide great value in improving procedures and in digital services. Fundamental information is the people registry, business registry, land registry, cadastre registry and geo data.
The last module in the program finally is d) the IT architecture, for a pre-requisite to re-use basic data is that IT-systems can communicate with one another with equal standards in a joint-public and secure infrastructure.
Q: How advanced in e-governance are other countries like the Nordic, the Baltics and the EU countries – e.g. do some of them apply e-signatures already?
A: Others like Estonia or Denmark are considered frontrunners. Once we have the signature ready in April 2019, we will be one of the first who apply an e-signature which will be compatible with the EIDAS regulation, fit for the next generation of IT systems.
Q: You mentioned that the system was inspired through a knowledge exchange with Estonia earlier. Can you tell a bit more about this?
A: Estonia was one of the first countries to develop e-governance, funded by EU money, and they use a system and technology with the name X-Road. X-Road is open source and available for everyone. That enabled us to build on an existing system, which we could adapt and further develop. X-Road basically is the “translator” providing an interface to enable the different software programs involved in the program to communicate with each other.
Q: Why can the Digitalisation Program of the Faroe Islands be interesting to intl. meeting planners and their clients?
A: Internationally we have still space to expand our connections and exchange. At presence we are mainly relating to the Nordic Countries and the Arctic Circle and we are open to share our information and experiences with conferences on the digitalisation subject or IT solutions, coming to the Faroe Islands. We can consult and help other nations to develop into e-governance. As a small country we are flexible and can take quick decisions, so there are a lot of opportunities to work together with international organizations.
Also, the Nordic and Baltic countries just have signed a ministerial agreement on Artificial Intelligence – this is not directly connected to our digitalisation program, but it is important that the Faroe Islands are prepared for this development.
In short, we are a great destination with advanced knowledge which we like to share with international counterparts!
Q: Last but not least: Do you see controversial opinions among the population about your Digitalisation Program?
A: No, not really, there is very little opposition to the program. We really want to include each and every citizen and to train everyone. And – the analogue systems will still remain in place and be gradually reduced as the development advances and the acceptance will be at the final 100 %. All households have access to broadband and 4G, and most of them are already connected, and we have some of the fastest connectivity in the world, also in the remote islands and communities, which allows us a really exceptional outreach.
Nicolai has a sound background in development of IT infrastructure for the public sector, so he was responsible in setting up the digital systems for the health care system, which serves now as an example module for backoffice system in the Digitalisation Program.
More interesting reading:
tmf dialogue marketing – We point out the areas in which the Faroe Islands have excellent business expertise – to connect with similar projects or knowledge clusters around the world. We want the world to come to the Faroe Islands and network on all projects that are introduced here – for more check https://www.tmf-dialogue.net/category/smart-congress