Our new digital world: Digitalisation in Norway during the coronavirus pandemic

Strategies and Action Plans

Norway’s Digitalisation Strategy, encapsulated in the document ‘Our New Digital World,’ outlines how the nation leveraged digital technologies to navigate the challenges brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic. This strategy highlights the critical role digital transformation played in maintaining societal functions, ensuring continuity in public services, and fostering economic resilience during unprecedented times.

Preparedness and Rapid Response

When the Coronavirus crisis struck, Norway was already well-positioned due to its robust digital infrastructure and high digital literacy among its population. The government had invested heavily in digital gateway solutions, which allowed for effective online public services. This foundation enabled Norway to quickly transition to remote working, home schooling, and digital interactions with minimal disruption.

Health Sector Transformation

The pandemic catalysed significant advancements in the health sector’s digital transformation. Prior to the pandemic, the adoption of digital health services was relatively low, with only 8% of doctors’ offices offering video consultations. The demand for online medical consultations surged as physical consultations became limited. The government introduced several initiatives to support this shift, including putting online consultations on par with physical ones in terms of remuneration and allowing telephone consultations as a temporary measure. These changes resulted in a dramatic increase in e-consultations, which stabilised at a new, higher level even after restrictions eased.

Digital tools also played a crucial role in infection tracing and remote health monitoring. The Smittestopp app was launched to quickly notify individuals who had been in close contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases. Additionally, the use of pulse oximeters combined with apps allowed healthcare personnel to monitor COVID-19 patients remotely, reducing the need for direct contact and conserving personal protective equipment.

Enhancing Public Services

The pandemic accelerated the digitalisation of public services. The government portal ‘ID-porten’ and the Common Contact Register were critical in maintaining high levels of service and distributing important information. These platforms enabled the rapid development and deployment of new digital solutions, such as the compensation scheme for businesses affected by the pandemic.

Local governments also adapted quickly. For example, Østre Toten municipality developed a digital toolbox within seven days to manage the new challenges brought by the pandemic. This toolbox included solutions from various Norwegian start-ups, facilitating assistance requests and maintaining communication with residents.

Economic Adaptation and Support

Norwegian businesses embraced digital transformation in response to the pandemic. A survey by Computas revealed that 8 out of 10 businesses implemented digital measures due to COVID-19, with over 50% introducing new collaboration tools and digital solutions. The retail sector saw a significant surge in online shopping, with a 48.2% increase in December 2020 compared to the previous year. The financial sector also adapted, with a substantial rise in contactless payments as a health measure.

The government supported these transformations through various initiatives, including the establishment of the Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) and the implementation of the Broadband Development Act to improve digital infrastructure. These measures ensured that both public and private sectors could continue to operate effectively during the pandemic and beyond.

Long-term Vision

Looking forward, Norway’s Digitalisation Strategy aims to solidify the advancements made during the pandemic and continue fostering innovation. The strategy emphasises the importance of digital readiness, continuous improvement, and the integration of digital tools into all aspects of society. By maintaining a focus on user needs and leveraging technology, Norway seeks to enhance its competitiveness, sustainability, and overall resilience.