Around one in four in Denmark ‘challenged’ by country’s digitised services

Digitalisation of public services presents almost a quarter of the Danish population with practical difficulties, according to a think tank study.

Around one in four in Denmark 'challenged' by country’s digitised services
Almost a quarter of people in Denmark find digital services challenging. Photo: Olafur Steinar Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix

The Justitia think tank, which is focused on legal issues, states in a new report that “many residents” of Denmark were subjected to “conditional legal security” (Danish: vilkårlig retssikkerhed, ed.) as a result of a high level of digitised public services.

“This could be members of the public who are socially underprivileged or elderly, people with disabilities, people with minority ethnic backgrounds or groups without further education,” Justitia deputy director and author of the report Birgitte Arent Eiriksson said in a press statement.

“Their lack of digital skills can mean that members of the public who were previously well-functioning are reduced to underprivileged people in the meeting with the public sector, or that a pre-existing lack of privilege is exacerbated,” she said.

That could cause “further distortion of society,” the think tank concludes.

Problems using digital platforms can mean that individuals are unable to access public help and support that they are entitled to and would benefit from.

Others may be reliant on help from friends and family to be able to use digital services.

Large parts of Danish public services, including benefits applications, tax registration, registration of addresses, marriages, pensions, applications for child care and residence permits are all primarily conducted online.

READ ALSO: What is Denmark’s new Digital Post secure email system?

In recommendations made in the report, Justitia called for parliament to ratify a dispensation scheme or to make digital self-service platforms optional rather than mandatory.

The think tank also wants parliament to have more control of digitalisation through further-reaching political agreements and bills.

Trade union 3F told newspaper Politiken that “very many” of its 261,000 members need help with digital services or “have already lost benefits or rights as a consequence”.

“Digitisation of the public sector is a good solution for very may people. But not for everyone,” 3F deputy chairman Tina Christensen told Politiken.

The interior minister, Birgitte Vind, told the newspaper that digitisation had “perhaps gone too far for a while”.

“And I know that the government is very engaged on this. It’s not up for discussion that we should not put some people in a worse position because they don’t know how to be digital,” Vind told Politiken.

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Danish stores and doctors call for digital ID to prevent underage alcohol sales

Stores and doctors in Denmark want politicians to look into the possibility of digital age checks for purchasing alcohol.

Danish stores and doctors call for digital ID to prevent underage alcohol sales

Instead of employees bearing responsibility for guessing a customer’s age based on their appearance and then deciding whether to ask ID, doctors and stores want a digital system to check the purchaser meets the age limit for buying alcohol.

A range of professional organisations and interest groups for doctors and businesses proposed digital IDs as a requirement to buy alcohol in a joint letter published by newspaper Berlingske.

When an alcoholic beverage – for example, a bottle of vodka – is scanned, checkout staff would automatically be alerted to an ID requirement, under the proposal.

If the customer uses their debit card (Dankort) to pay, a digital system would be able to check with the person’s bank whether they are over 18 years old, and reject the purchase of they are not.

The model would not completely prevent underage purchases because it could be circumvented by using cash or another person’s card.

READ ALSO: Denmark advises no alcohol consumption for under-18s

Nevertheless, the deputy chairperson of De Samvirkende Købmænd, the trade union for store owners, Claus Bøgelund Nielsen, argued the measure would make a worthwhile difference.

“Our belief and hope is that it would make a very big difference,” Nielsen told broadcaster TV2.

No other country has adopted a similar measure at the time of writing.

“This is a vision and a wish we have. There’s no country anywhere in the world that does this at the moment but we think it’s ideal to work in this direction,” Nielsen said.

“And if there’s a will all the way the table for this, we think it should be possible within the foreseeable future to achieve it,” he said.

A digital ID check would likely require a law change and thereby a parliamentary majority. Denmark is currently locked in negotiations to form a new government after elections on November 1st.

Banks, stores and payment service providers would need to work together to implement the measure.