Sweden and IT

Description: For SACC-USA

Among the EU member nations, Sweden is best prepared for the future.

This encouraging statement was the result of the most recent study done by the World Economic Forum. If we look for reasons for this result, one we can find is that the baby boomers of Sweden’s population are older than many other countries, and thus that Sweden has already managed to fund a majority of costs for its population in retirement.

But the main reason that Sweden is so well prepared for the New Economy is that it leads the world’s nations in Internet use, on-line purchasing, and cell phone ownership and use. Another study – done by the International Data Corporation – puts Sweden at the top of the heap among the IT nations.

A new image of Sweden is emerging as more and more businessmen choose Sweden’s own Silicon Alley, Kista, ahead of Kungsträdgården, and choose the brash and bullying ”dot-commer’s” hang-out, Sturehof, ahead of the more traditional, Operakällaren.

What is happening is then that Sweden is becoming – as International Newsweek put it recently – ”The Wireless Society.” This may be seen on all levels: From computers and cell phones to design and music products – the new Swedish industries of the digital age have taken the place that in Sweden was so long held by steel and pulp.

Sweden has changed. And we see this not only because the Stockholm stock market was at the top of its class during this past year, and that Sweden has the greatest number of stockholders of any country in the world – which certainly warms my heart, having once been Director of the Agency for the Promotion of Stock Investment (Aktiefrämjandet).

For those of us given the opportunity to represent Sweden in New York, all of these are positive developments. When there is so much written in the international business journals and in the US media regarding Sweden’s leading position in the New Economy, it also becomes easier to communicate this new positive image of Sweden.

Traditionally, the General Consulate in New York has – in addition to providing consular services, which is of course primarily why we are here – promoted Swedish culture. We intend to continue with this. But at the same time, we want to reconfigure our resources so that we will also be able to promote Swedish industry in a more general sense, and provide information regarding the Swedish economy.

What is interesting is that the service that we provide relating to both culture and commerce often end up being two sides of the same coin. Design is a highly exportable product. Few would dispute the fact that the success of Ericson’s mobile phones is as much a product of their design and image, as it is a result of their superior technology. That Absolute Vodka has become the third best selling alcoholic beverage is less because of what’s in the bottle, as how the bottle looks. Success is all about ”branding,” design and marketing.

And so the borders between popular culture, politics and business are gradually disappearing. In this climate, Sweden’s image as a nation on the frontier of the New Economy becomes stronger and stronger.

Olle Wästberg