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ITU - Digitalization of Denmark

Forslag til Forskningstemaer - FORSK2025

Digitalization of Denmark


1. Resumé

IT is an indispensable driver of change, innovation and economic growth. Unfortu-nately, Denmark suffers from an almost chronic shortage of experts to push the drive. That is why a lot more IT research into digitalization is required and that is why IT has to be seen as its own independent strategic research theme if Denmark is to continue to be a relatively prosperous country.

2. Samfundsudfordringer og/eller muligheder

The time in history when Denmark was not crucially dependent on IT is over. In-deed, IT is now visible everywhere in the Danish society. Most Danish citizens own one or more computers from laptops and smart-phones to embedded computers in their car or sports gadgets. The technology has become sufficiently user-friendly that most Danish citizens possess user skills at some level.

However, the fact that most Danes have become habitual IT users does not imply that IT has now become a commodity. Quite the opposite. IT is, first and foremost, an indispensable driver of change, innovation and economic growth throughout the Danish society. Perhaps more than any other group of experts, those people in Denmark who have a deep and relevant understanding of IT have become agents of change, of innovation and of economic growth; they have become the people who change every aspect of modern Denmark.

Unfortunately, the country suffers from an almost chronic shortage of such experts. Not even outsourcing of IT jobs to other parts of the world has satisfied the de-mand. As the sheer amount of data, information technologies and services on which we depend increase, so does the complexity of the field. Not only are more experts needed, it also takes more to become an expert. This is where IT research comes in. Like all research, IT research creates knowledge. Knowledge, unlike buzzwords of the day, is profound and long lasting. Research-based education propagates such knowledge, thereby enabling those who acquire it to act based on knowledge, rather than on trial and error.

Thus, the case of increasing the volume of research into the digitalization of Danish society is simple: more IT knowledge is needed, and more IT research that can propagate that knowledge into research-based teaching is needed. To put it bluntly: a lot more IT research into digitalization is required if Denmark is to continue to be a relatively prosperous country.

3. Forskningsbehov

It is important that all Danish citizens obtain basic knowledge of IT. Being knowledgeable about IT beyond basic user skills is as important as learning Danish and mathematics. It is therefore important that the public school and the high school system both contain a lot more IT education. If we do not strengthen the IT education of our young citizens, it will become unnecessarily difficult for Denmark to achieve the full potential of IT in the future. There simply will be too few young talents being prepared for the necessary creation of IT technologies and services. For this reason, there must be more research in how we in the best possible way teaches our young citizens IT. This of course includes digital supported learning but it goes much further also looking into what kind of IT must be taught and how.

For decades, we have experienced examples of large IT projects in Denmark failing, the cost and waste of money has often been considerable and in the size of hundreds of millions of DKK. Both the public sector and private IT suppliers could benefit greatly from knowledge created through IT research. Therefore, Denmark should create a centralized research effort with the purpose of improving and guiding the way we develop large IT projects. The IT University of Copenhagen will be happy to lead the development of such an effort involving other Danish research institutions.

Education and a less wasteful spending of money is of course not sufficient, we must also do IT research that can innovate and help Denmark to become better developing IT technologies and services. Below we list some of the most important topics to do research within during the next five years. But it is important to stress that many IT technologies have become so mature and easy to use that it has become even more important to investigate social science and humanistic research into how society benefits even more from those technologies. For instance, research in privacy and trust in relation to IT systems is getting more and more important in order to understand how the offered IT services and products may satisfy citizens and customers. Addressing the societal implications of the increased use of algorithms in services offered on the internet and addressing the increased use of (big) data is significant. We also have the responsibility to investigate and influence the social and cultural transformations caused by IT in a positive direction, not least when it comes to democracy. Research in digital business models and how IT will improve business and organizations is another example of how non-technical research will turn out to be important.

Clearly, research in more technical aspects of IT is of interest to the Danish society. Much research is already going on in big data analytics, but we have not seen the full potential yet. The essential issue for many biologists, oceanographers and geographers is no longer whether they have enough data, but whether it is even possible to calculate the results – this is an example of where pure IT research can help other research disciplines. Machine learning and artificial intelligence will have a major role to play here. IT research within robot technology is also a very fruitful area that already has shown its potential by creating promising Danish startup companies. In order for software developing companies to be competitive, they must develop new products efficiently and fast without jeopardizing the correctness of the products. Therefore, methods, tools and techniques to support software engineering practices is an important research area that deserves much more attention.

There will also be a need to prioritize the area of interaction design, human computer interaction, smart products and internet of things; these are all areas where Denmark will experience a major development in the years to come and many new products will be developed. One topic in particular should be emphasized as an important emerging area, namely the blockchain technology, which is poised to have major implications for the financial sector (and others) in the near future.

4. Forhold vedrørende udmøntning og implementering af forskningsindsatsen

If all the challenges outlined above realistically can be dealt with and in the most efficient and effective way, it is of utmost importance that IT is no longer treated primarily as a vehicle to support other (equally important) sectors like energy, health, food etc. It is crucial that IT is regarded as its own independent strategic theme that sets its own research agendas motivated by a quest for deep insight and consideration of use. If IT is continued being regarded as a support discipline for other sectors, we may risk that the major challenge of obtaining a proper digitalization of Denmark is simply not doable.

5. Danske forudsætninger

The IT University has a lot of expertise in the above listed topics in which there is a need for more research; and we are willing to take a leading and coordinating role in pursuing them with whatever resources we are entrusted. Clearly, we cannot solve all these issues alone; it will take a lot of coordinated efforts and collaboration with relevant stakeholders like private companies, public organizations, GTS (like the Alexandra Institute), IT networks, and other research institutions.

6. Mål, effekt og perspektiver

The ultimate goal is that IT becomes an indispensable driver of change, innovation and economic growth throughout the Danish society. A changed education system containing much more IT as outlined above is a prerequisite for obtaining such an effect. More expertise in IT will also allow the public sector (as well as the private sector) to save money when developing large IT projects.

7. Kontaktperson

Jens Chr. Godskesen, Pro-rector, jcg@itu.dk, 72185276

8. Forslagets prioritering

The IT University of Copenhagen has only provided this proposal.


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Senest opdateret 23. juni 2016