Internet Week Denmark proves Aarhus is on the right track with innovation

Internet Week Denmark brought more than 100 events to Aarhus last week, demonstrating the city’s position is a front-runner in innovation and technology. With the potential to become a mini Danish Silicon Valley, digital development is taking off abruptly.

by Ella Navarro, feature photo: Mayor of Aarhus, by Dovile Petrosiute – IWDK

Scandinavia might be a bit far off having its very own Silicon Valley just yet, but it’s definitely investing in the right places. It’s clear that the future of innovation lies in solutions for making a smarter and more sustainable world, and Scandinavia has the right ingredients.

Demonstrating this trend and generating plenty of debate on the subject, Internet Week Denmark (IWDK) took place in Aarhus last week.

Man and machine join forces
The opening day started with an interesting and provoking speech by Jacob Bundsgaard, Mayor of Aarhus. He explained that one of the goals of the week is to share with the world the Scandinavian way of doing things, in order to inspire and exchange perspectives.

“Listening, learning and collaborating is what we do best in Scandinavia… We want human and machine to bring out the best of each other,” enthuses Bundsgaard.


The Pioneer Awards were handed out on the opening day (photo: IWDK)

Joined by Sideways Dictionary – an entertaining robotic voice dictionary – which throughout the speech pointed out some definitions, it was an attractive and interactive introduction, which put an emphasis on the people and the digital development of the country. “The internet economy will be a crucial driver for prosperity in the future,” stresses Bundsgaard.

Denmark leading the digital wave
The transition to digitisation is happening at a great speed, and the right things are being done in Scandinavia. While Copenhagen ranked number 7 in terms of digitisation out of 60 cities, Aarhus is not left behind. Ranking number 22 in the European Digital City Index (EDCI) 2016 is a great achievement, and proves that the innovative ecosystem is slowly building up.

The start-up world is definitely booming in Aarhus, and there is a lot of young talent coming out of the city’s university. Examples are startups like UNSILO, which got the attention and investment from India, and LunarWay, which was awarded second place in the European Fintech Awards in the category ‘Challenger Banks’. FinTech is one of the latest trends in digitisation, offering financial services more efficiently and at a lower cost, and Danes are already doing it.

Mads Rydahl

Mads Rydahl, founder of UNSILO, a text intelligence tool based on machine learning processes (photo: IWDK)

What is more, Denmark as a whole has ranked 1st in the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) of 2017. According to the report, there has been enormous progress recently, particularly in the use of digital technologies, by enterprises and citizens. Denmark is becoming a leader both within the EU and in the world.

Some facts to testify the progress include: Denmark’s improvement in broadband connection; and the fact that the country features the widest 4G coverage, with 94% of Danish citizens online. Denmark’s digital skills are very advanced, and so is their engagement in a variety of online services. Plus, Danes are considered the most intensive European users of video on demand. In addition, Denmark ranks first in the use of digital technologies by businesses, where more and more have taken up use of cloud computing and social media.

Denmark is certainly proving successful in adjusting to the digital era, encouraging Danish citizens to understand and be comfortable in the digital world; another of the messages that IWDK aimed to highlight.

A little bit of everything
Among the 100 events offered by IWDK over five days last week, some touched upon the important challenges and issues that digitisation entails, such as the privacy of our information online activity and the ability of fake news to deceive our judgement.

With the digital advance come risks, and cyber security is one of the main issues concerning all: individuals, businesses and governments. Everything that is online can be tracked, and people should be aware of it and be mindful of their online activity. It is scary to think that Google, for example, tracks 70-80% of users every day. On the other hand, it can be very useful for businesses that want to reach a certain target audience; it’s about finding a balance that doesn’t impact the privacy of the individual.

Girls and Women on Tech was one of the workshops held at IWDK (photo by: Dovile Petrosiute -IWDK)

Girls and Women in Tech was one of the inspiring workshops at IWDK (photo: Dovile Petrosiute – IWDK)

Withal, there were talks and demonstrations on robotics, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, new marketing solutions through technology, smart cities; you name it! IWDK was a sneak peek on what’s happening, what’s to come, and how we should act/react and rethink as citizens in the digital world.

Having visited Israel and it’s innovation ecosystem recently, I agree with the Mayor: it is the way to go. The economic future and drive for countries like Denmark and Israel, similar in many ways, is in innovation and research, one that focuses on the well-being of the people and puts them as the top priority. It is not about using technology for the fun of it, but more about focusing on the people and making things that enhance our everyday lives. In the end, we all want to live in a smarter, brighter future.

Visit the Internet Week Denmark website for more information about what happened during the event. To watch the full speech from the Mayor of Aarhus, follow this link.

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