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HOUSE OF SCANDINAVIA

Casper Klynge – One of a kind

Of all the various roles, business cards and responsibilities represented in Austin at SXSW, Danish politician Casper Klynge has arguably, the most unique title of all – the world’s first (and only) Global Tech Ambassador. Here, he explains what it actually means.

Backed by his unique job title, Casper Klynge’s chief responsibility is to act on behalf of the Danish government ultimately to bring the tech industry and the state closer together. The role, one he describes as a start-up within the government, has a broad-ranging mandate, and he’s convinced it represents a model that can bring huge benefits to other countries. 

“I’m often asked ‘who do you actually represent? And did you come up with it yourself?’ smiles Klynge. “I represent the government with a fully-fledged ambassadorial mandate within the national foreign and security strategy policy. I’m the only tech ambassador in the world and we still have the only tech embassy in the world. Principally, it’s a new way of looking at diplomacy by interacting with the tech industry, but also with other countries to focus on the differences and issues in a geo-political context – how tech will impact on us individually, but also how it will impact our societies and institutions, and our relationships with international bodies such as the EU, the UN and NATO.”

The fact that the world’s first global tech ambassador is appointed in a Scandinavian country is of little surprise, and is a reflection on the societies and values in the region, according to Klynge. 

“In Scandinavia, we’re generally pro-globalization, and people generally aren’t afraid of the future and look at tech as something that will provide opportunities, rather than risks.” 

Generally speaking, tech and government sit well together Scandinavia, and Denmark in particular, argues Klynge. 

“Denmark ranks highly on most digitalization indexes. Whether you are my child or grandparent, you know that you need a digital profile, and everyone is comfortable using online services in their everyday lives. What is different from, say 20 years ago, is that in those days, digitalization was seen as a way of improving efficiency and a means of competitive advantage, but these days, it’s more about seeing how we can use it to adapt to a new reality that we know is going to be more tech-driven.” 

Although a role bridging the state and the technology sector generally functions well in Scandinavia, Klynge, who works between bases in Silicon Valley, Copenhagen and Beijing, concedes that it can be challenging on a wider global basis, working as he does, with behemoths such as Facebook, Google, Alibaba and all the major players across the board, and across the globe. 

“Today technology transcends everything. Whether you work in healthcare, aviation or inside government, tech is a game changer, and it needs to be treated on a global level – technology is going to transform our individual lives, but also the world at large in so many ways, and as such, we need to work out how were going to relate to that – our ‘Scandinavian-ism’ approach isn’t a bad thing in this respect, because being Scandinavian, we’re pragmatic, but also realistic and idealistic at the same time. Let’s use this to our advantage, but also let’s try and shape the world to try to ensure that tech doesn’t undermine democracies or meddle with our election processes. In other words, we really need to increase the responsibility of the tech actors as well,” says Klynge. 

So how long will it be, before we see global tech ambassadors appointed in other countries? 

“I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told by other countries ‘we need to replicate that model but it will take us longer to get there because of our institutions, but we are seeing other countries doing it now, and we welcome that – I’d love to have a Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish colleague, because I think that Scandinavia has a lot to offer. It’s a tech-positive approach, but were also very focused on values that I personally think are important, whether its gender policy or democracy, or human rights – what I would call a human centric approach to tech. Here, Scandinavia as region really can show global leadership.”

 

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