Hot topics at Almedalen 2019.

Rapid digitisation, sustainability, climate and energy efficiency challenges follow the speedy development of data centers globally.

The Swedish festival ‘Almedalen Week’ was held earlier this month in Visby on the island of Gotland. DigiPlex’ Head of Communication, Elisabeth Lennhede, took the opportunity to engage in discussions around the rapid digitisation, sustainability, climate and energy efficiency challenges that follow the speedy development of data centers globally. Below are some key take aways from the discussions during the festival.

The Perfect Storm of Sustainability
The sustainability issue has always been top of the agenda at Almedalen. What was new this year however, was the correlation between sustainability and finance – the financing of sustainability. Investing in sustainability has clearly become a strategic business target, but businesses need to increase the speed of their change agenda much faster. According to various UN panelists “no one works in a high enough tempo”. When sustainability comes high up on the agenda for consumers, investors and employees, the sustainability work becomes truly business strategical and a competitive advantage. There has been a big shift in the social expectations and pressure on companies in how to act. To run your business in a sustainable way is now the only defendable way. As many countries are now investing in increased competitiveness in sustainability, it is important that Sweden does not lose momentum. And to attract the younger talents to your business, it is imperative to show an ambitious sustainability agenda.

Digitisation – The Circular trend
The hottest thing you could do is stop being linear! Digitisation, cooperation, and AI have been trending increasingly during the past few years. Everything from building processes to the food chain is now circular. But there are ethical and moral dilemmas that can come with AI. The Swedish welfare system is experiencing a challenging paradigm shift driven by digitisation. This shift is necessary. It brings possibilities, but also risks as security of personal data must be guaranteed, and data leak incidents have been reported. This issue needs to be addressed and solved inorder for the public to trust these digital solutions, especially since initiatives to share personal data across Nordic country borders is underway. Nordic Interoperability Project is a collective of suppliers, care givers, research and development organisations that run a project looking at an open, seamless and border-crossing healthcare system. The human values and the importance of ethics in combination with AI was discussed in many conversations and seminars. Sweden has very clear ethical guidelines that apply, but this ethical approach is not universal, and worries arise in anticipation of the reaction when the financial sector meets the health sector.

Almedalen clearly showed that the climate topic is here to stay. It is growing in importance each year, but in 2019 we saw an increase with new players raising the climate issue, such as the food and finance industry, the civil society, influencers and more. With sustainability and climate change dominating for the first time among the top three themes, the interest among arrangers, participants and audience clearly showed that these issues are no longer the focus of climate activists only. This huge climate interest increases the pressure on politics, increased focus on political means of control, but also on companies to change their business to set and meet their climate goals in time, as well as demonstrate how beneficial they can be for a better society. Sweden’s leading international role in the climate fight will continue to have a big impact during the coming years.

The energy supply, and demand, was a hot topic in Sweden during the spring and the discussion continued during Almedalen week. The speedy digitisation and greater need for energy puts increasingly higher demands on the Swedish energy grid, and many panel participants demanded quicker authorisation processes from Swedish authorities for energy supply. There were concerns that companies are choosing to establish in other countries because the Swedish authorisation processes for energy supply are too slow. Svenska Kraftnät, the government authority responsible for Sweden’s transmission system for electricity, announced that it will invest almost 50 billion SEK in the power grid during the coming 10 years. That is twice as much than during the past 30 years.

** The Almedalen festival is a political event for and by the people. During the eight day event around 1,700 associations and organisations, NGOs and political parties held close to 3,700 events with an audience of more than 100,000 people. The top three event categories were Sustainability with 685 events, Digitization 411, and Climate/Environment 409 events. Similar to last year, the overriding theme was Agenda 2030 and UN’s 17 goals for sustainable development.

We now look forward to similar interesting and engaging discussions at the Norwegian festival Arendal in mid-August.