From the 7th until the 12th of May, the second largest Danish city will be hosting the sixth edition of the country’s leading digital festival, IWDK. But, what makes Aarhus the best host for this event?
The small city of Aarhus has recently been in the spotlight. Two years ago it was named the European Capital of Culture 2017, it was a finalist of the European Capital of Innovation Award 2018 and at the end of last year, The Wall Street Journal referred to it as “Denmark’s New Wave” for the innovative environment that is making it attractive to worldwide tech giants.
And this is not – just – a matter of coincidences. A combination of factors makes Aarhus the perfect, cozy, amiable Scandinavian city for the development of business and tech. With a population of 340,000 inhabitants, younger and better educated than the national average, Aarhus is home to more than 20,000 IT professionals developing artificial intelligence, data science, internet of things and user experience design, just to mention a few.
For Johan Bitsch Nielsen, who is the co-owner of Ditmer and First Agenda, tech companies based in Aarhus, the city has the right mix of things: “I see that we have a unique position because we have talent from the university in all the areas of tech, combined with this special Scandinavian way of organizing our companies where we have a very low power difference and very little hierarchy and very high level of trust, and that makes us very innovative”.
Digital transformation is a top priority in Denmark, a country with a modern market economy where business development is the steering wheel of economic growth. From the 5,775,224 inhabitants of the Danish land, 5,534,770 are active internet users; that’s an impressive 96.5% internet penetration rate, according to the latest information retrieved by Internet World Stats.
For digital strategist and independent consultant Karsten Bubber Outzen “some of the really large companies in Denmark, the C-20 companies, are starting to ‘smell the coffee’, they are waking up, they are starting this whole digital transformation instead of just producing a product, they are actually moving mind-wise to selling services”.
Most recently, the Danish government prepared an ethical framework within the National Strategy of Artificial Intelligence to guarantee higher standards in the field. The Danish Expert Group on Data Ethics was in charge of putting together the guideline of principles for authorities, businesses, research institutions and others working with AI.
“There is a Scandinavian tradition about putting people first, also in the digital age. Ethics is a very high top priority in Denmark and I think that’s one of the reasons why, because if we haven’t got the ethics right then we won’t put people first in the digital age”Louise Overgaard, Head of IWDK.
The matter of ethics is precisely the discussion proposed by this year’s Internet Week Denmark. Under the main theme “Digital Change, Change Digital”, the IWDK will focus “how to control the digitalization, how can we do this in a good way, how can we make sure that people stay healthy, that our environment, our businesses, and our democracy stay healthy”, according to Louise Overgaard, Head of the festival.
Between the 7th and the 12th of May, Aarhus will be hosting more than 7,000 participants in nearly 100 events about emerging tech, internet of things, digital transformation in agriculture, the Chinese internet revolution, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and more. All the events of the IWDK are free and most of them in English.
According to Stine Skaarup, Senior User Experience Designer at Designit, “a lot of the IWDK events are interesting to everybody and anybody who finds technology, people and organizations interesting”. For Lise Lystlund, co-founder of Co-Coders, the IWDK is “a good place to get to know new people and learn new stuff, there are a lot of events and you’re able to choose whatever you want”. Stine and Lise have participated in past editions of the festival and both Designit and Co-Coders are partner companies of this year’s edition.