Speech by Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson at Sommarminglet with Swedish tech entrepreneurs
Stockholm, June 8, 2023
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It’s really great to be here tonight and I do appreciate the opportunity for a brief escape from the high walls of our Government Offices and all its bureaucratic glory.
Well – don’t get me wrong: of course I respect and value all the judicial, financial and ceremonial knowledge we’ve gathered in the public sector. And government really is not a startup – nor should it be. But sometimes you also need to meet people who are in more of a hurry, who run fast, see the possibilities rather than only the impossible, people who like to take risks and still believe that in the long run, technology beats politics.
That’s why I’m here tonight – so please don’t disappoint me…
In my experience, the tech scene in Stockholm is a place where you find people – from all over the world – who are optimists, who believe that the future is bright and quite often aim to prove it.
That was also the case when I was a very tiny part of it some 20 years ago, in a pretty big Swedish IT consultancy called Connecta. We read Wired and Red Herring and discussed crazy ideas like a future with electric and self-driving cars…
About those things we were obviously right. But we also believed the internet had the potential to liberalise countries and make freedom of expression a reality for the whole world. – not least in China. About that we were definitely wrong.
A lot of things have happened since my time at Connecta. And perhaps things are converging. One conclusion would be that since everything is moving faster, people are demanding more and quicker results, also in politics. The days when you could investigate new policy for a few years, implement it over the course of one more year, and then wait another three years to see whether it works or not – they are simply gone. Both problems and solutions move faster. So, we must be quicker –in policy-making and the public sphere as well.
While WE work on that, I know that many of you in the tech sector realise that the work YOU do – with new digital applications, services and products – has a real impact well beyond your own sector.
It changes society as a whole. Look at the clean tech sector. Look at AI development. This means you have a great amount of power – and an equally great responsibility.
My hope is that you will continue to use that power to help solve the major problems of our time. We need more people who see and understand both your world and mine – we need some true renaissance people.
This brings me to one such major issue – solving the climate challenge – which cannot happen without new and smarter technology. We know the problem. Now we need to focus on innovative solutions. And this is something that you guys are much better at.
I really appreciate the part of my job visiting Swedish businesses at the forefront of this task. Companies that have developed new climate-smart products and services, while at the same time reducing their own emissions – almost always using new technology.
This is good, but it also demands that governments match the work being done by being a reliable partner. We can’t afford the bureaucracy of government standing in the way of companies delivering the solutions to our problems. My aim is to change that. And it’s been our lodestar since taking office.
Finally, a word on AI. I agree with those who believe that AI will be key to increasing efficiency, productivity and creativity. AI will be a powerful tool to help people solve problems otherwise almost unsolvable. I spoke to H2 Green Steel, who told me how they are integrating AI in their business to become more energy-efficient.
Obviously, there are also challenges and many unknowns – as with most new technologies. The development, possibilities and dangers are exponential, whereas our legislation, structures and policies are rarely as dynamic. Regulation is needed, but its focus should be narrow, to avoid stopping innovation and progress. This is key.
And that goes not least for the EU. In the long run, it’s a poor division of responsibilities to make the US and China technology makers and Europe the technology taker, and at the same time hope that the EU could emerge as the world’s regulatory maker.
In this field – as in geopolitics – I rather believe in strong transatlantic cooperation and partnership. The free world has a specific responsibility.
As I said in a speech earlier this week at Sweden’s National Day celebration: we have gone from being one of Europe’s poorest countries to a prosperous welfare society – an innovative country where successful companies export to the whole world. We have done this by embracing innovation and having companies at the forefront. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Sweden has more unicorns per capita than Silicon Valley.
These are strengths to build on, but we’re by no means done. We have more to improve on, which will make Sweden an even better place to live in. For entrepreneurs and for all Swedes.
I’m looking forward to getting your input here tonight. If you see the need for improvement – let me know. When I see potential for you to do more – I’ll let you know…