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Digitalising Denmark: Efficiency versus privacy

Peter Aagaard (Roskilde University, Denmark)
John Storm Pedersen (University of Southern Denmark, Denmark)

Public Governance in Denmark

ISBN: 978-1-80043-713-5, eISBN: 978-1-80043-712-8

Publication date: 23 February 2022


For many years, one of the central ambitions of shifting Danish governments has been to maintain the position as an e-government frontrunner. The overall dream of administrators has been and remains to produce personalised social services efficiently. Shifting Danish governments have followed a centralised, party-neutral and consensual path to digitalisation. The efforts have been based on a centralised civil registration number system (CPR) established in 1968. However, the quest for efficient, personalised services has also stimulated debate in Denmark as to whether the state is obtaining too much personalised information and risks violating the privacy of its own citizens. Digitalisation efforts, especially the out-of-office efforts, cannot be pushed without public legitimacy attached to the process. Furthermore, Danish legislation must be changed substantially to pave the way for the increased use of advanced digital tools. Algorithmic tools cannot be trusted to solve all tasks. These dilemmas illustrate that the days of high political consensus in the Danish digitalisation efforts may very well be over. Other countries can learn four overall lessons from the Danish experiences: (1) although a high level of digitalisation can be reached using a top-down, nonpartisan approach, digitalisation will always be political, (2) experimentation and the failures attached to digitalisation can come at a very high cost, (3) effort will benefit greatly from citizen trust, especially in out-of-office efforts and (4) the public legitimacy of digitalisation must be based on strong mechanisms of social and political accountability.



Aagaard, P. and Pedersen, J.S. (2022), "Digitalising Denmark: Efficiency versus privacy", Krogh, A.H., Agger, A. and Triantafillou, P. (Ed.) Public Governance in Denmark, Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 131-146.



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