Norway: experiences in regulatory collaboration23.09.2020
Regulatory collaboration among sectoral regulators
Source: Bergen, Norway. Photo by Mikita Krasiou on Unsplash
According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Benchmark of Fifth Generation Collaborative Regulation (G5 Benchmark), Norway is the world’s leading G5 regulator (ITU 2020). The ITU also ranks Norway as one of the top countries in terms of harnessing the value of collaboration in digital markets regulation. This position is shared with Botswana, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. Accordingly, Norway’s mature ICT regulatory framework and its ability to consistently develop synergies between digital services and cross-sectoral collaboration have led the ITU to identify Norway as a top-ranked digital leader.
Norway’s path towards digital transformation
Norway’s consistent efforts towards digitalization have built its foundation for digital transformation. As shown in the figure below, the government’s digital agenda recognizes ICT and digitization as strategic competitive advantages for Norway, leading to five key priorities in terms of ICT policy (Digital Agenda for Norway 2016).
Norway’s priorities in terms of digital and ICT policies
Source: Norway’s Digital Agenda.
Based on the 2016 Digital Agenda, in June 2019, Norway released its digital strategy for the public sector 2019-2025, which provides guidelines for digitalization in public sector activities. The strategy includes a cross-sectoral approach to attain the goals of digitalization. For example, given that all tasks and services developed in the public sector involve the use of data, among the strategy’s goals is data sharing in which all public sector agencies reuse information to develop seamless services and promote innovation. The strategy also aims to develop a common ecosystem for digital collaboration across government entities and promote cooperation with the private sector. The realization of these goals implies fundamental changes within the organizational structure of Norway’s agencies in order to enhance their services and enable greater efficiency in the performance of tasks. Accordingly, the strategy addresses multiple cross-sectoral initiatives, including on cybersecurity, cross-sectoral use of data, national digital collaboration, and a collaborative regulatory model (MLGM 2019).
Data protection and cybersecurity are at the core of IT solutions and service developments. In January 2019, Norway presented its fourth National Cybersecurity Strategy that adopted an overarching approach across all sectors and administrative levels. Norway adopted its initial cybersecurity strategy in 2003, making it one of the world’s first countries to introduce a national strategy in this area. The government has continued to update the strategy to keep pace with technology, including revisions in 2007, 2012, and 2015. In preparing the latest strategy, Norway particularly emphasized the need to apply an open and inclusive process to involve all public and private sector stakeholders. The strategy’s development conference included over 300 delegates, along with written inputs and participation through a variety of workshops. Thus, the 2019 strategy aims to incorporate governmental authorities and private sector players – domestically and internationally – to ensure a comprehensive approach against cyberincidents through the interaction between preventive measures; a strong digital infrastructure; the ability to detect and handle cyberattacks; the fight against cybercrime; and ample cybersecurity competence and knowledge. Accordingly, Norway places cybersecurity at the core of all IT solutions and service developments that will contribute to the country’s digital ecosystem.
Cross-sectoral data use and data sharing
Norway’s Digital Agenda sets out the “once-only” principle under which the public administration must reuse information instead of asking users to resubmit information they have already provided. This involves cross-sector agency efforts so authorities throughout the public administration can collaborate with each other to share information. The eBevis service, for example, streamlines procurement processes by obtaining tenderers’ information directly from other data sources, which reduces participants’ obligations to submit information that authorities already have (e.g. tax certificates). Another example of cross-sectoral data sharing is the a-ordningen platform, which is based on employers’ reports of income, employment circumstances, and payroll-withholding tax deductions concerning their employees. This information is sent to the Norwegian Labor and Welfare Administration (NAV), Statistics Norway, and the Norwegian Tax Administration, and managed by the latter. This system not only simplifies employers’ reporting obligations but also allows the reuse of the reported information by many other organizations, such as the Norwegian National Housing Bank (Husbanken), pension companies, banks (in connection with loan applications), and the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI).
The Digital Special Information Access program is also an important example of cross-sectoral cooperation. This is a national program for cooperation on establishment, maintenance, and distribution of digital geographic data. It is aimed at improving the availability and use of quality information across a wide range of users, particularly the public sector (EC INSPIRE). The program is led by the Ministry of Local Government and Modernization (KMD), together with the National Geodata Board (comprised of representatives from the private and public sectors) and the National Coordination Committee on Spatial Information (with representatives from national and local authorities). This is a broad collaborative program in which about 600 national agencies and municipalities pool and use information.
Constructing a common digital ecosystem for national digital collaboration
According to Norway’s digital strategy for the public sector, authorities at all levels must be able to collaborate in order to provide user-centric, seamless, and efficient digital services. Existing and future service development platforms and data registers must allow public entities to collaborate digitally and have access to common IT solutions and architectures, creating a common digital ecosystem.
At the local level, the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities set up a common IT architecture for the local government sector, in cooperation with central government actors, such as the Norwegian Directorate of eHealth, the Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (Difi), and the Norwegian Labor and Welfare Administration (NAV). Under this program, collaboration between the local governments and central government is the top priority.
There are also multiple national common solutions that are part of Norway’s digital ecosystem, including the Digital Mailbox for Citizens, National Population Register, ID-porten (authentication of citizens), Land Register, and the Central Coordinating Register for Legal Entities, among others.
To achieve the target of services, websites, and data sources at all public sector levels functioning together, Norway has identified several key elements for a common ecosystem:
- common data sources, such as master data and basic data registers;
- common solutions;
- common architectures, such as reference architectures, standards, guides and frameworks;
- standard access for multiple users;
- standard business models and contracts; and,
- harmonized financing and payment models.
A collaborative model
Norway has recognized the need to ensure collaboration and coordination across sectors and between the central and local governments. Most public sector services are municipal. Accordingly, the Digital Agenda urges government agencies to help develop services that can be used at the local level. Difi and the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities play a major role in facilitating this. These efforts are implemented, for example, through a collaborative governance model for digitalization in the local government sector. Through this collaborative model, local governments collectively develop common digital solutions, sharing the costs and the benefits. An example of this is Digi-Fin, a financing tool aimed at supporting local digitization initiatives that create common solutions so municipalities can avoid developing the same solutions separately. The Ministry of Local Government and Modernization provides funding for this initiative.
Skate (Styring og koordinering av tjenester i e-forvaltning or Management and coordination of services in e-government) is another example of Norway’s coordination efforts. Chaired by Difi, Skate acts as a strategic cooperation council for digitalization. It contributes to a coordinated digital ecosystem, addressing common issues and challenges in the digitalization of Norway’s public sector. For these purposes, Skate plays an active role in the development, implementation, and monitoring of Norway’s digitalization policies. Skate advises public sector organizations on ICT and digital services, acting as a driving force in important matters for cross-cutting digitization and creating a common ecosystem for national digital collaboration and service development. In particular, Skate provides advice and recommendations related to (i) scope and implementation of measures and action plans; (ii) management and financing models, including financing needs, for comprehensive management and dissemination of solutions in a common ecosystem; and (iii) coordination to further develop and manage Norway’s common ecosystem.
ITU (International Telecommunication Union). 2020. Global ICT Regulatory Outlook 2020. Geneva: ITU. https://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-d/opb/pref/D-PREF-BB.REG_OUT01-2020-PDF-E.pdf.
MLGM (Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation). 2019. One Digital Public Sector: Digital Strategy for the Public Sector 2019–2025. Oslo: Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation. https://www.regjeringen.no/contentassets/db9bf2bf10594ab88a470db40da0d10f/en-gb/pdfs/digital_strategy.pdf.
Norwegian Ministries. 2019. National Cyber Security Strategy for Norway. Oslo: Norwegian Ministries. https://www.regjeringen.no/contentassets/c57a0733652f47688294934ffd93fc53/national-cyber-security-strategy-for-norway.pdf.Last updated on: 19.01.2022