Hoppa yfir valmynd
Prime Minister's Office

Vision of the Information Society

Table of Contents


By Prime Minister, Mr. Davíð Oddsson

The rapid development now going on in communications technology and the delivery of information will have an extensive impact on human society. The individual's horizon and field of activities will broaden; companies' markets and businesses will expand; in communications between nations, new fields of commerce, collaboration and cultural bonds will come into being. In some ways, this development is changing the world economy. The focus on the labour market, raw materials, finance and energy has now yielded to the significance of information and expertise. Economic growth and profitability are now based more on access to information and the ability to utilise it. It is urgent that Icelanders participate actively in this development.

The Government of Iceland has therefore formulated a policy on the issues of the information society. Such policy formulation is an attempt to ensure all citizens full and equal access to the innovations and options that will be available.

It is especially necessary to capitalise on two kinds of qualities that are deeply rooted in Iceland's national character. On one hand, the nation has a driving spirit and is also open to innovation. As Icelanders, during the Middle Ages, explored lands and areas of the ocean far and wide under the force of their belief that "He alone knows who has been many places", in this same spirit, modern Icelanders are desirous of exploring and settling in the new world of the information society. This desire is a source of energy which we urgently need to harness.

On the other hand, Icelanders have a sincere conviction of their cultural uniqueness. They emanate a considerable stubbornness and strong sentiment of independence that is a ballast for us in changing times. It is better to stand with both feet in the ever-rising stream of information coming to us than to be borne away in the flood. We must have criteria and the strength to select and reject. We must utilise the possibilities of information technology for the good of the nation, both for individuals and the whole society. The changes coming must therefore strengthen Icelandic culture and the nation's belief in its uniqueness and role. It so happens that Iceland's cultural heritage consists, for the most part, of information. Information and telecommunications technology, therefore, not only open up new possibilities for the future development of Icelandic society, but also create a turning point in the presentation and understanding of the cultural values the nation has created in past centuries.

It is my hope that the policy on the issues of the information society in this booklet mark a milestone in this development.

Davíð Oddsson

In the dawn of a new era

By Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mr. Finnur Ingólfsson

In coming years, great strides in developing information and telecommunications technology will completely change our ways of working and human relations by providing an unhindered flow of information and quick access to the major wells of expertise in the world. These changes will become more extensive and proceed more rapidly than most former changes in society. They will not be restricted to economic and commercial life, but touch all aspects of society. They cannot be fought against, but mobilising their power will improve our standard of living and culture. This new form of society is called "the information society".

The policy declaration from the Government of 23 April 1995 lays a foundation for policy formulation on the issues of the information society. This declaration promises a comprehensive policy concerning the exploitation of information technology for economic progress and the build-up of the economy, scientific research, the arts and other cultural areas. People's access to governmental information will be ensured; bureaucracy in relations between citizens and the Government will be reduced, and unnecessary provisions of law and regulations will be abolished. In parallel with this, government services will be patterned for modern technology, for example, through electronic data interchange and the linking of service institutions via computer networks.

This consists in the Government's resolve that modern information and telecommunications technology will be best utilised to ensure growing prosperity in the country so that it will be possible to sustain the best possible welfare system and the highest degree of culture.

In October 1995, on the basis of this declaration, the Government entrusted me to appoint a committee to make proposals on issues of the information society. Twenty people were on the Committee-designated representatives of ministries, the economy and interested parties. The Committee's Chairman was Tómas Ingi Olrich, Minister of Parliament. The others on the Committee were:

  • Benedikt Davíðsson, Director of the Icelandic Federation of Labour,
  • Berglind Ásgeirsdóttir, Secretary General of the Ministry of Social Affairs,
  • Davíð Á. Gunnarsson, Secretary General of the Ministry of Health and Social Security,
  • Friðrik Sigurðsson, Chairman of the Icelandic Council of Standardisation,
  • Guðríður Sigurðardóttir, Secretary General of the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs,
  • Haukur Oddsson, Chairman of the Icelandic Society for Information Processing,
  • Helgi Ágústsson, Secretary General of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs,
  • Jafet S. Ólafsson, Director of the Icelandic Broadcasting Corporation,
  • Jón Birgir Jónsson, Secretary General of the Ministry of Communications,
  • Jón Þór Þórhallsson, Director of the State and Reykjavík Municipality Data Processing Centre, Vice Chairman,
  • Jónas Kristjánsson, Editor of Dagbladid-Vísir,
  • Magnús Pétursson, Secretary General of the Ministry of Finance,
  • Ólafur Tómasson, Director of the Postal and Telecommunications Administration,
  • Sigmundur Guðbjarnason, Chairman of the Iceland Research Council,
  • Sveinn Hannesson, Managing Director of the Federation of Icelandic Industries,
  • Vilhjálmur Egilsson, Managing Director of the Iceland Chamber of Commerce,
  • Þorkell Helgason, Secretary General of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce,
  • Þórarinn V. Þórarinsson, Managing Director of the Confederation of Icelandic Employers,
  • Ögmundur Jónasson, Chairman of the Federation of State and Municipal Employees.

The following people worked with the Committee:

  • Guðbjörg Sigurðardóttir, computer specialist, Chairperson of Project Management,
  • Sveinn Þorgrímsson, Department Manager at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Committee Secretary.

On behalf of the Committee, nine work groups were established for the main issue areas of the information society. These issue areas were: democracy, law and ethics; wage earners and consumers; economic and commercial sector; governmental administration; telecommunications and multimedia; education, science and culture; health services; social services and communications and travel services. A special seven-person project management was charged with conducting the efforts of the work groups, co-ordinating their proposals and editing a report, titled "The Icelandic Information Society, Work Groups' Report".

The Project Management comprised:

  • Guðbjörg Sigurðardóttir, computer specialist, Chairperson of Project Management,
  • Aðalsteinn Magnússon, Managing Director,
  • Jafet S. Ólafsson, Director,
  • Jón Þór Þórhallsson, Director,
  • Sveinn Hannesson, Managing Director,
  • Sveinn Þorgrímsson, Department Manager,
  • Þorkell Sigurlaugsson, Managing Director.

This publication, The Icelandic Government's Vision of the Information Society, is the product of the Committee's work and based on the work group's report. The report may by viewed as a further explanation of the main points set out here. The direct participants in the policy formulation numbered 130; however, somewhat more people contributed to it informally. It is more accurate to say that the harmonised opinion of some 200 people, associated with most of this society's sectors, is found here. I thank them specially for a job well done.

In light of the fact that the growth potential of the nation's traditional economic activities is limited, it is important that the tools of the information society by utilised as much as possible to create new opportunities. An important part of this effort is active Icelandic participation in international commerce. Icelandic economic and commercial life is certainly international, and new technology and the spread of new skills will accelerate this development. Innovation in the Icelandic economy must take this into consideration, and economic development must become capable of supporting improved performance.

Iceland's uniqueness is that we will utilise information and telecommunications technology proportionally better than larger nations since open access to information and free transactions over the information highway increase the competitiveness of smaller companies with respect to larger ones and eliminates the distance to trading nations that has always interfered with normal development and the competitiveness of this country's economy.

Inevitably, changed commercial and economic ways along with rapid technical development will increasingly affect our daily lives and economic standing. We must respond to these changed circumstances and give people on the labour market opportunities to gather new knowledge to utilise new technology and adopt new work skills. Requirements for education are increasing steadily. Ever more knowledge is necessary to be viable on the labour market. The number of jobs for the unskilled are decreasing. The mission of education in the new type of society will therefore never be over-estimated. People in the labour market desirous of further education must never lack the minimum, necessary education to utilise additional education in jobs that demand ever more technical knowledge. We must therefore increasingly emphasise general, fundamental knowledge and continuous education since education is the basis of the knowledge upon which this progress is based.

Undeniably, at the same time as many look toward the information society with daring and drive, the foreseeable developments have made others afraid that the number of jobs will decrease and living conditions worsen. Even though this fear is unfounded, and experience actually shows the opposite, there is no reason to ignore this concern. Thus, a certain menace can be seen in the new pattern of society as well as opportunities for advancement. The issues of the information society are complex and do not revolve only around economic value. It is no less important for us to have the fortune to utilise technology to strengthen democracy, increase social equality and strengthen our unique culture and language. This will not happen by itself. The information highway will be overflowing with foreign materials of many types and of varying quality. There we can lose out if we do not stay alert. In light of this, it is important to think well about the cultural and social aspects of changes accompanying the information society. The participation of everyone in this new society must be assured so that two groups do not form, those adopting the new knowledge and those left behind.

The policy formulation published here marks the sure beginning of our organised journey toward the information society. Policy formulation is, by its nature, a living and ever-changing project, requiring continuous re-examination. The focus will change quickly since it is impossible to see the end of this development. The rapid uptrend of technology and changing needs of society must be continually taken into consideration.

It is my belief that an extremely fortunate step has been taken here on the journey lying before us. The results of this journey, however, will not be determined by the Government's good intentions alone. General solidarity must permeate it since the majority of these coming changes will clearly be driven forward by the power and prudence of individuals and companies. Society's profit will therefore be characterised not least by their active and successful participation.

Finnur Ingólfsson

1. Introduction

Iceland is now sailing before a strong, favourable wind into the century of the information society. Governments realise that it is timely to formulate a vision of the future of this journey. In the Government's policy declaration of 23 April 1995, objectives in the field of governmental political discussions concerning the utilisation of information technology to improve public administration and stimulate the economy were set out for the first time in Iceland. Since then, several kinds of policy formulation have been accomplished in the management system. This publication is the result of this work; published here is the Government's vision of the future information society.

This publication has two key words: guidance and vigilance. Guidance refers to the Government's role in guiding information technology along a path and facilitating its headway into as many fields as possible for the benefit of Icelanders. Vigilance refers to the further necessity of the Government's standing guard over cultural and ethical values, such as the Icelandic people's - identity and the protection of sensitive, personal information, which some fear will be swept away in the flood of change. Although at first glance it may seem that these two key words would be antithetical, they in fact turn around the same axis. This axis concerns the chief objective of the vision of the future that Iceland be in the forefront of the world's nations in utilising information technology in the service of improved living conditions and prosperity.

Given this chief objective, various main objectives springing from it will be traced. Then the focus is narrowed further by considering sub-objectives in various fields of human endeavour in the country-culture, public administration and the economy. Attention is directed toward the guidance role of the Government, and a few ways open to the destinations will be suggested. Then, in the same fashion, the Government's missions of guidance and vigilance in the fields of legislation and ethics will be discussed: objectives and means. Finally, proposals are presented on ways to implement, re-examine, co-ordinate and finance these objectives.

However, before embarking on this discussion, a further consideration of information technology is in order, its historical and logical pre-conditions and the soil from which it has grown in this country.

2. The information society and Iceland

Changes in man's circumstances come in waves. Two of the largest waves were the agricultural and industrial revolutions. The third wave, now rising, draws its power from information. Its source is simultaneous, technological advances in two fields: telecommunications and computers. In the latter field, easy procedures have been developed to access information in many ways through language and pictures; and the world's telecommunications systems have become so powerful that it is possible to connect to them anywhere to access inexhaustible wells of information about everything imaginable.

The new information technology has already radically affected the life and work of the public in this country; but we have just seen the beginning of this development. Work as well as leisure have undergone considerable change. One example is the computerisation of the fishing fleet: how the utilisation of information technology has revolutionised fishing procedures and the processing and selling of the fish catch. Another example: technology makes it possible for us to monitor on a computer screen dance performances, plays and operas, listen to musical compositions from all parts of the world and see art exhibitions, whether they are held in Reykjavík or Rome. It will not be long before it will be possible to access cinema and television shows in the same way and become, in various ways, direct participants in the action. Home shopping by computer will conceivably save us much time standing in lines in large stores. And these are only a few examples.

The field of information is different from all other fields in commercial life in that its raw materials are not consumed with use. Often the opposite will be true: the value of information will increase the more often and better it is utilised. Another fundamental difference between information and other types of operations is that it is never contingent upon time and space. Each and every person should be able to access the information he or she requires whenever and from wherever needed. From the above it can be seen that size is less important than it was, and place matters hardly at all. Small population and distances are thus hardly deemed significant hindrances any more. Information technology, therefore, should reduce the effect of Iceland's sparse settlement and geographical isolation.

It is safe to assert that in Iceland, no less than in other countries, information technology could become the key to a metamorphosis into a society of knowledge: a society where knowledge will be one of the most important resources, and its communication and processing one of the most important professions. Information technology provides another chance to improve the utilisation and increase the value of the nation's resources. This technology therefore ought to be of benefit, if things are properly done, in increasing productivity and economic growth in addition to improving Iceland's competitiveness and the living standards of all Icelanders in the next few decades. With this vision in mind, we proceed toward a new age.

No one disputes that information technology, as most other technologies, has no intrinsic value, that is, no independent right of existence. Its advantage is its utility: facilitation and shortening of the way to a goal. The desired goal is not to yield oneself to technology, but to achieve mastery over it; not to be struck dumb by innovations, but to turn them to advantage. On the other hand, divergence is greater over to what extent it is possible to guide the growth and development of information technology. It is sometimes said that "fate leads the willing and compels the reluctant". The spokesmen for this view deem the development of the information society to be by natural processes which no governmental authority can control. Others believe that the Government can-and ought to-hold the reins of development and impel it in harmony with the current policy.

The Government's opinion is that both the above views go too far. The flow of information is certainly international in character, and will not be controlled by the power of any state. On the other hand, this does not preclude providing the development a beneficial direction, any more than the fact that a tree grows and prospers according to its inner laws implies that one may not, in some way, facilitate growth and shape it with exterior procedures. A Chinese folk tale tells of a farmer who tried to speed up the growth of his seedlings by stretching them a bit. However, this uprooted them, causing them to wither and die. The Icelandic Government may neither restrict growth of information technology nor go to extremes in cultivating it, as did the farmer. The Government ought to prepare the soil for it, fertilise it and water it and, also, trim the seedlings wherever needed. The conclusion here is, therefore, in full harmony with the key words in the Government's policy which were stated in the introduction: guidance and vigilance.

All prosperous human existence carries within itself an attempt toward harmony and reconciliation with the environment and circumstances. In the development of an information society in Iceland, the soil available here must inevitably be taken into consideration. Foreign observers have pointed out our special qualities: a high level of culture, the dissemination of computers and computer literacy, developed systems of management and telecommunications networks as well as the smallness of the society that makes it possible for us to take and implement decisions in a relatively short time. In this regard, the characteristics or "contradictions" of the Iceland character might be mentioned which various authors have tried to capture: patriotism and internationalism, stay-at-home disposition and a longing to travel. It has been said that we are a mixture of Nordic mulishness and Celtic mystique, inferiority complex and greatness. But as the philosopher Sigurdur Nordal always said, irregularity and contradictions are nothing other than springs of energy insofar as they enrich us "to live irregularly, but also to be stronger than the disorder." One main source of energy for Iceland is the vigour and dynamism of its people which spring from these contradictions. Among the manifestations of this dynamism is the thirst for innovation which in its extreme form can be a vice, but here must be regarded as a virtue. In our journey toward an information society, we already have the head start of being receptive to innovations. One may therefore suppose that the goal of Iceland's being in the forefront of the world's nations in the field of new technology is fully realistic.

3. Main objectives

The chief objective, presented in the introduction as the axis of our vision of the future, is:

Iceland shall be in the forefront of the world's nations in the utilisation of information technology in the service of improved human existence and increased prosperity.

To follow up on this chief objective, five main objectives will be set out as a foundation for a vision of the future:

1. Icelanders shall have easy access to the information society. That its advantages be utilised to strengthen democracy and increase the quality of life for the benefit of the public and the Icelandic economy. That information technology be employed in all fields, whether for innovation, public health, science, the arts or other fields of daily life.

2. Complete equality shall be ensured between the public and private sectors in the field of information technology and the information industry. That the Government, with the help of information technology, facilitate access to governmental information and services to level the status of individuals and companies without regard to residence and economic resources.

3. Information and telecommunications technologies shall be mobilised to improve the competitiveness of the Icelandic economy, increase productivity and proliferate the possibilities of exporting Icelandic inventiveness.

4. The educational system shall adapt to changed social dynamics and focus general education and continuing education upon the advantages of the information society while, at the same time, keeping watch over our language and culture.

5. Legislation, rules and working methods shall be re-examined with respect to information technology to stimulate technological progress and to protect the rights of individuals and companies.

The Government has many duties to fulfil in the information age, domestically as well as internationally. Furthermore, it is the biggest user of information services in this country and has a great, direct influence on the market. In the international arena, the Government plays the role, among other things, of promoting the land and its people and guarding their interests regarding the making of international agreements and standards. The Government can therefore have a direct influence, in various ways, on the progress toward the objectives stated above and bear responsibility for their implementation. It is no less important that the Government, through various indirect means, such as precedent, encouragement and counsel, pave the way so that the diverse parts of society head in the same direction. Here, as never before, a synchronous campaign is needed for our journey toward the information society to be smooth and successful in the long term.

The lore of policy formulation tells us that it is easier to talk about twelve mountains than to climb one. It is, therefore, very important that the general objectives are, on the one hand, distinguished from each other and, on the other, made doable. Preliminary attempts at such an implementation are found in the fourth, fifth and sixth sections of this report.

4. Guidance in several fields of national life


  • The public, democracy and equality
  • Economy
  • Education, research, culture
  • Public health
  • Telecommunications
  • Mass media
  • Communications and travel affairs

Let us then consider the implementation of the main objectives in several fields of national life, that is, with sub-objectives, further explanation and examples of ways to implement them.
The public, democracy and equality

The equal rights of citizens shall be fortified with the help of information technology. The latitude of the people to influence legislation and the organisation of society, within the framework of democracy, will be increased as much as possible.

Saying that the information society should fortify democracy, cf. the first main objective above in Section 3 of this report, mostly entails making it easier for the public than it now is to follow the operations of governmental parties and to obtain the information that is inherently available to citizens who can thus take an independent stand on policy matters, legislation and rules of society. This, however, does not mean that "all" can automatically utilise the possibilities available despite the formal availability to them of education and training. It is, therefore, important that those who are in some way disadvantaged be given a helping hand so that they can, according to ability, stand equally with others. The advantages of information technology may not be restricted to a small group, but must trickle equally throughout the society.

Some ways of implementing the objectives:

  • Information should be made accessible to people, without respect to economic circumstances or residence and possibilities assured to them for life-long education and training for new jobs as needed.
  • Ways to utilise information technology should be specially considered in the communication of governmental information. With people's increased access to net-connected computers, new possibilities open to improve services, without regard to residence or the opening hours of particular institutions. All information systems in governmental organisations must be designed to make it possible to retrieve information about laws, rules, rights, obligations, etc., via the computer network. It should also be possible to do one's errands, monitor the progress of important matters and obtain all the services possible to provide via computer network.
  • Icelanders' access to information about the Government's and municipalities' social services and the relations between them should be improved. User equipment connected to the information highway should be accessible in governmental institutions.
  • Information technology should be wielded for the benefit of the handicapped so that they can become the most active participants possible in society, in work and play.
  • Information technology should be utilised in the fight against unemployment and to reduce the undesirable effects of residence on job possibilities, for example, by establishing an employment agency for the whole country where available jobs and information about individuals in search of work are registered in a relational database.
  • Libraries should be developed into comprehensive information centres that ensure all their customers easy access to information in electronic form, among other means, through links to domestic and international educational centres and data banks. The customers should also receive guidance concerning the newest technology for searching for and utilising information. Emphasis should be placed on making all the book and magazine files in the country's libraries accessible to everyone in electronic form.
  • The advantages and disadvantages of utilising information technology to conduct attitude surveys, elections and counts, in the spirit of what has been called "direct democracy", should be investigated.
  • The focus should be on the sanctity of privacy and the protection of information about individuals.


Information technology should be used to improve the competitiveness of Icelandic industries, proliferate jobs and increase productivity, the variety of jobs and innovation. The Icelandic economy should then move to the forefront in the exploitation of information technology and become competitive in the international environment.

Information technology revolutionises modes of production in many fields. In addition to sundry influences on the domestic market, new opportunities can be created for export of information systems and services. Examples include projects in fisheries, energy, health services, training and entertainment. The economy will be able to utilise the ripe opportunities in the field of information technology for agreements concerning the European Economic Area and other international agreements. The knowledge accompanying foreign connections is a key to Iceland's prosperity in the next decade.

Some ways of implementing the objectives:

  • The build-up of a powerful information industry must be promoted, among other means by having the objective of making the export of Icelandic inventiveness a profitable industry. The pioneering projects rooted in Icelandic inventiveness must be reinforced.
  • Normal and reasonable competition should be allowed to reign in the field of information services. Such competition will lead to lower prices and better service.
  • Information technology should be employed in all the governmental jobs to improve services, increase efficiency and lower costs.
  • The Government, by supporting increased research and development in the field of information technology, should pave the way for companies and institutions to adapt to the field.
  • Government councils, institutions and companies shall always utilise market solutions wherever available and pertinent. The compliance of computer communications with international standards will be ensured as well as that new systems fulfil requirements for communicability. The focus will be on tender offers for work and projects related to information technology. Such tender offers will be purposefully utilised to create jobs and generate innovation.
  • Co-operation should be taken up between parties on the labour market and those researching the labour market or maintaining statistics on it as well as wage research committees, employment offices of the Ministry for Social Affairs and the Statistical Bureau of Iceland, so that the gathering of information and processing of data will be easier, and it will be possible to communicate them more purposefully to parties on the labour market and to the Government.
  • Companies and the Government should implement electronic data interchange in accordance with international standards and adopt innovations as soon as they are standardised and harmonised.
  • Both employees and companies should be prepared for the changes that occur when jobs disappear and new ones are created. Organised continuous education and re-education will make it easier for people to cope with new jobs and projects when jobs change or vanish. The focus should be on the training and re-education of those who have lost their jobs so that they can prepare for new ones.
  • Employees' easy access to information about the status and policy of the companies employing them shall be assured.

Education, research, culture

The educational system should adapt to the changed dynamics of society and prepare students for jobs that will continuously demand the gathering of new knowledge. Also the advantages of information technology should be utilised to reinforce and maintain language and culture. Research and development in the field of information technology and the information industry should be supported at the same time as the technology itself is used to stimulate research and development in other fields.

Educational institutions have the important mission of preparing students for life and work in the society of the future. Education is, in fact, the foundation upon which development and progress rest. In the information society education will not be contingent upon residence and time as before. By utilising the advantages of technology, access can be assured for all countrymen to information and knowledge. One of the roles of educational and cultural institutions is working toward making this a reality.

Education will change greatly in the next years, with many aspects of it changing simultaneously. Specialised education will become obsolete sooner and educational requirements will increase. The current emphasis on schooling being tied to a certain time of life will decrease. Continual education will acquire the same value as a traditional academic curriculum. "Reading" pictures, or the knowledge of the "grammar of graphics", which is the backbone of communicating information with pictures, must therefore become a part of education.

In addition, information technology creates new dimensions in Icelandic cultural life and multiplies the ways that the arts are communicated. It can be utilised to bolster the presentation of cultural activities and the creation of art greatly and to facilitate coming into contact with the values provided us by our cultural life.

Some ways of implementing the objectives:

  • All Icelanders should have access to a primary and secondary education as well as continual education and training in applying information technology for their own benefit in life and work.
  • In re-examining curricula at all levels of schooling, emphasis should be placed on the development of all subjects in accordance with the possibilities offered by information technology. An important aspect in this process is good knowledge of the mother tongue and other languages. In the international arena, a thorough knowledge of English is especially important.
  • The importance of the country's schools' having adequate computer equipment should be stressed, as well as support services, so that students and employees can utilise the potential of information technology in studies, teaching, research, management and domestic and international communications. Means for handicapped people to utilise information technology for participation in regular schooling should be specially considered.
  • The operations of the Educational Network must be robust. Among other things, there should be information about Icelandic educational institutions, data banks and educational projects, distance learning, continual education and other offerings linked to education in this country. Access to the Internet and other comparable networks for schooling should be available in all the country's educational institutions.
  • Stress should be placed on continual education and self-instruction which make it possible and normal for all to renew and adapt their knowledge to new circumstances, move between jobs or create new ones. Facilities, information and educational materials must be obtained for those involved in continual education and self-instruction; and data banks should be set up to service distance learning and electronic communications.
  • Educational institutions for teachers on all levels of the school system should organise and conduct multifaceted and carefully crafted basic and continuing education courses on the utilisation of information technology in various subjects for teachers, school managers and other employees.
  • It should be possible to take diverse, special courses in the field of information technology at the secondary and university levels. University-level institutions should be encouraged to continue to prepare and offer such special courses.
  • It is important to support and strengthen research on the use of information technology in schooling and its impact on education. Purposeful attempts should be made to use information technology at all levels of schooling.
  • Research and development in the field of information technology and information affairs should be intensified.
  • The community of science, that is, the community of those doing scientific work, should utilise information technology in the most efficient manner to strengthen their work.
  • Watch must be kept over the Icelandic language since there is a national desire that Icelandic be applied in the basic elements of information technology and computerised data; all kinds of lore and cultural materials-as much as possible-will be in Icelandic.
  • Information technology should be utilised to preserve cultural values as well as to teach and present Icelandic culture, artists' activities and works in this country and abroad.

Public health

The quality and effectiveness of the public health service should be increased through purposeful utilisation of information technology. The public should have easy access to services and information concerning health matters with assistance of such technology so that individuals can take more responsibility for their own health, choose between alternatives and increase their ability to help themselves.

There has been a movement toward reducing the costs of the health service with a focus on its restructuring and better utilisation of employees and equipment. If the health service is to be improved at the same time as costs are held down, new ways must be found, including ways to promote increased and faster communication of information within the healthcare system. A sensible use of information technology can equalise citizens' access to the health service, increase patients' possibilities for self-help and reduce the need for various time-consuming tasks.

Some ways of implementing the objectives:

  • A data bank about health matters should be set up where materials and their treatment are gauged by the public's needs. Individuals could obtain trustworthy information about healthy habits, preventive measures, possibilities of self-help and other health matters. In the same way, there should be easy access to information about health services, health institutions and patient associations.
  • Information systems should be established to facilitate the public's ability to pursue various errands and seek services from the health system, regardless of residence.
  • A campaign should be conducted to computerise the health system by building up compatible and co-ordinated information systems for health institutions so that they can work together as a whole. The information systems should be flexible and adapt to the health service's miscellaneous organisations.
  • Modern computer and telecommunications technology should be used to provide specialist consultation for distant locations and promote increased co-operation between health institutions.


Adequate domestic and foreign telecommunications must be assured at a competitive price which can lead to a surge of progress and services in the forefront internationally.

In an information society, the telecommunications system is the highway system of information. A precondition for being able to utilise information technology for the benefit of the economy and the public in this country is easy access to powerful information transport systems within the country and abroad. The transport system must cope with ever-growing traffic in the form of text, speech, pictures and animated pictures that require voluminous transport capacity. The load on the transport system increases with the increased supply of services for these routes and the technical innovations that facilitate usage.

Some ways of implementing the objectives:

  • Freedom in telecommunications should be implemented, access to governmental distribution systems opened and conditions created for increased competition. The service obligations that ought to accompany such services should also be considered.
  • The policy should be to reinforce Iceland's competitive status by ensuring the access of companies and the public to the most modern telecommunications system in the world at a competitive price. The transport capacity and security internally and to other countries should always be sufficient, and rapidly growing use should be assumed.
  • The build-up of a wide-band network should be speeded up with organised efforts being directed at implementing a wide-band transport system throughout the country.

Mass media

The Icelandic mass media will be the advance guard of the Icelandic culture and language.

Mass communications have increased enormously in recent years, especially the broadcast media, radio and television. This increase can be traced especially to the abolition of the monopoly for the Icelandic State Broadcasting Service a decade ago and the new possibilities of receiving material via satellite.

The mass media will play an ever-larger role in ensuring the public access to multifaceted information and facilitate its flow in many ways. The boundaries between the mass media, telephone systems and computer technology seem to be blurring, and opportunities for interactive communication multiplying. In this area, the public will be given a chance to have an impact on what services are provided and what information is communicated. Individuals can therefore tailor usage to their own needs. To a certain extent, mass communications will thus develop toward individual communication. Also, individuals, associations or companies with an Internet connection can become participants in a new kind of mass communications that are not contingent on the traditional mass media. This will completely change individuals and companies' ability to make their ideas known, establish cultural links and offer goods and services.

The mass media of Iceland do not only compete amongst themselves but face ever-increasing competition from foreign mass media, especially television. The growing role of the Icelandic broadcast media in child-raising and educational matters underscores the importance of their ability to compete in vigorous competition, on the premises of the unique position of Icelanders, our language and our culture. European programming has increased, although hardly as much as that of the large US companies in this field. Currently, great emphasis is being placed on the making of cinema and programming for television as a part of each nation's culture-among other things, through co-operation of the broadcast media in the relevant countries. The Icelandic broadcast media must follow this example to ensure quality and variety. Furthermore, the Government must urgently search for ways to mobilise and support the broadcast media and independent programming to produce materials of top quality.

Some ways of implementing the objectives:

  • A working environment should be created for Icelandic mass media to enable them to participate actively in international competition.
  • Free competition should be ensured in the field of mass communications.
  • The role of the Icelandic State Broadcasting Service should be re-evaluated because of the arrival of other broadcast media, among other things, with respect to the importance of bolstering Icelandic culture and the creation of Icelandic programming.
  • The collaboration of Icelandic media should be promoted by encouraging them, along with independent producers, to produce Icelandic programming.
  • The mass media should be urged to provide all Icelanders access to their information, programming material and news material through computers for a reasonable fee.

Communications and travel affairs

Safety in communications for Icelanders and tourists should be ensured as much as possible through the utilisation of information technology. Further, this technology should be used to communicate and distribute information to tourists, domestic and foreign. The advantages of information technology should be used generally to make relations between the country and nature safer.

The organised collection and dissemination of information to travellers, seafarers and pilots of aircraft will have a considerable impact on the security and viability of communications in Iceland. It will become possible, using a personal computer anywhere in the country and, in fact, anywhere in the world, to access information about communications via land and sea. Such dissemination of information will save time and bother and prevent trips under dubious conditions. Thus, one of the biggest benefits of using information technology for travel is safety. Another example is a plan for an automatic notification system for seafarers, utilising telecommunications and computer technology together.

Telecommunications and information technologies will promote still better ties between Icelandic companies and the rest of the world and facilitate the transport of goods and services. In this way, technology will move Iceland closer to the rest of the world and foreign markets and improve the nation's competitiveness. With increased use of information and telecommunications technologies, the communications between parties in the travel industry and with tourists will become easier, and new possibilities for tourism will open up in the Icelandic market. Tourists will be able to gather diverse and trustworthy information conveniently and inexpensively. This means that millions of people with access to the Internet can obtain tourist information about Iceland and the services it offers from a computer at home or at work. It is therefore very important to do this well so that the reception is the best possible because first impressions last. Information technology therefore gives the Icelandic travel industry new, ripe opportunities to reach a larger group of prospective customers in a more diverse and less expensive way than before. The expectation is that tourists will be able to access complete booking and sales systems from their own home computers and be able to organise and book their own trips for a small fee.

Some ways of implementing the objectives:

  • The State and municipalities should implement a co-ordinated information system concerning communications and environmental affairs, among other means, by making digital maps of the country's land and surrounding waters.
  • An information bank for travel services should be set up where companies offering travel services and the public can easily find diverse, useful information about Iceland, its laws and regulations. The information bank must include easily accessed information about the weather, road conditions, sailing routes, etc., along with various other beneficial information. The emphasis should be on providing carefully prepared information that promotes tourists' safety as well as on facilitating commerce

5. Guidance and vigilance in the fields of law and ethics


  • Legislation
  • Ethics

  • Information technology changes little, if anything, concerning the fundamental principles in the field of law and ethics to which, it can be assumed, most Icelanders subscribe, such as the protection of human rights and the right to privacy. On the other hand, new technology and the increased flood of information raise the question of how to ensure these rights

Legislation must be re-examined to be sure that it takes information technology into consideration and, at the same time, places necessary limitations on its use. Watch must be kept over values, such as the sanctity of privacy and security, however, taking care not to go too far to the point of over-protection. One might say that two kinds of objectives were involved here: on one hand, the abolition of unnecessary restrictions and, on the other hand, the protection of privacy.

Legislation must be adapted to a changed environment, removing all unnecessary restrictions on the development and use of information technology so that it can be utilised as much as possible for people's prosperity.
Some ways of implementing the objectives:
  • All unnecessary legal hindrances to the utilisation of information technology should be cleared systematically away.
  • New laws should be passed in response to various issues raised by information technology, for example, how to ensure copyright when copies can no longer be distinguished from the original, how import duties should be levied on digital information and how it should be taxed, what the legal foundation is of companies that engage in commerce world-wide by computer, perhaps not within the jurisdiction of any state, and what requirements must be met before a digital document is considered legal in commerce.
  • Libel and criminal laws should be re-examined and laws enacted on the freedom of expression and print that take new technology in mass communication into consideration. Computer communications also call for a reconsideration of legislation concerning telecommunications.
  • Information technology can clearly be utilised to support health services in improving citizens' health, as mentioned previously. In formulating rules on the use of information technology in this field, confidentiality and security of all information handling and processing must be a prime consideration. Information must be classified, and the confidentiality of the categories must be defined. Information that may be put into digital form and onto the network must be demarcated, and who may put what on the network and who have access to it must be specified. Special rules must be set concerning access by healthcare personnel to personal information, and how the information may be processed.
  • The practicality of digital identification cards should be investigated along with the legal aspects of their confiscation. Such cards can replace traditional, personal identification as well as passports and drivers' licenses. Such cards, among other things, could fulfil the role of ensuring equal access to information, with regard to both the Government and the private sector.
  • Large data banks linking various files concerning assets, real-estate ownership, vehicle ownership, etc. call for a multifaceted re-examination of laws. With respect to the protection of privacy, various conditions can be placed on the distribution of information from such a data bank.
  • The legislature, as a matter-of-course, shall decide whether to facilitate the use of governmental information, based on its nature and the purpose to which it will be put.
The legislation on the protection of the person shall be adapted to the changed environment to ensure, as much as possible, the sanctity of privacy and the security of information.

Some ways of implementing the objectives:

  • As more information is stored in machine-readable form, it will become less expensive to process and easier to misuse personal information. A solution is needed to ensure protection of the person as well as protection against the recording and distribution of personal information without the relevant person's approval.
  • A narrow framework must be set concerning the handling of information concerning individual's private matters, such as skin colour, race, political opinions, sex, health, finances, social status, etc., while providing for normal, advantageous processing of such information for the benefit of the individual and society as a whole. An examination must be made of the extent to which personal information may be used for a purpose other than the one for which it was gathered in the first place.
  • Care should also be taken that legislation protecting persons not be too narrow. It must take technology into consideration as well as the possibility of processing, communicating and transporting personal information that can be considered sensitive. Legislation must also leave leeway for such information's normal use and must make it possible to work with and obtain such information without a great deal of paperwork.
  • The directive of the European Union concerning the protection and transport of personal information must be examined. It has a twofold objective, that is, to aim toward securer protection of privacy and, at the same time, to try to ensure that this protection does not impede the free flow of personal information between member states. Although these objectives are, by nature, incompatible, the directive attempts to achieve them by requiring very strict legal and organisational standards for all handling of personal information and makes it obligatory for all member states.
  • Legislation protecting persons should take into account the possible use of digital identification cards. Such cards can clearly provide increased personal protection and security in communications and commerce since they can be both a personal key for the relevant individual to obtain information pertaining to him or her and an assurance that such data will be illegible for any one other than the correct recipient. On the other hand, this leaves a great need for vigilance, considering that such cards can contain individuals' life stories, providing a way to expose them completely.


Ethics covers judgements of right and wrong, human virtues and vices and rules concerning right and wrong conduct. The primary objective of ethics is to harmonise interests of dissimilar individuals and groups in a world of limited resources to promote the fortune and happiness of the greatest number of people. The boundary between laws and ethics and between ethics and propriety are often unclear. However, ethics are often regarded as, in some way, having universal value, that is, as applying to all people, regardless of time and place, as opposed to laws which are set by people, relative to time and place even though grounded in ethics. Ethical judgements must be supported with reference to interests running deeper than emotional reasons or an individual's tastes, which again distinguishes ethics from matters of propriety. For example, if nudity or unseemly language on television offends an individual's sense of decency, it is only a matter of propriety; if, on the other hand, a claim is made that the material directly injures the interests of some group of viewers, for example, children, it becomes an ethical issue.

In and of itself, information technology does not alter the main values of ethics, values that depend on the nature of man and society. On the other hand, like many new technologies throughout history, it creates previously unknown possibilities requiring ethical assessment. In such new circumstances, reference is often made to John Stuart Mill's well-known rule of freedom, which is sometimes worded thus: a person's freedom shall reach as far as the next person's nose, that is, persons shall be free to do as they choose unless their actions directly damage the interests of another party. That dealings only hurt the person himself or injure only the other person's sense of propriety is, thus, not deemed to be a sufficient premise for ethical condemnation. Having this rule as a guideline is sensible when considering ethical rules of information technology.

The utilisation of information technology in Iceland should be made to harmonise in every way with ethical values and not damage the interests of individuals and groups.

Some ways of implementing the objectives:

  • Dissemination must be promoted of software and other defensive weapons which people can use to restrict procurement and receipt of material in digital form that clearly undermines the public good (child pornography, propaganda promoting racism, terrorism and violence, etc.). Iceland's active participation in international collaboration in this field should also be promoted.
  • An ethics committee should be established in Iceland which, on its own initiative or that of others, addresses ethical issues which are not covered under existing statutes and regulations. The committee should urge occupational groups and institutions which utilise information technology to set clear rules of use and ethics for themselves and assist these parties in making them.

6. Implementation

The Government views the formulation of policy on the issues of the information society as a permanent developmental project, not a campaign project with a defined beginning and end. Because of the rapid changes that will occur in society and in the field of information and communications technology, the Government's policy in this issue-area must be continuously re-examined. The Government must have a comprehensive overview of developments in the issue-area to promote implementation of the policy, ensure the general participation of the public sector in utilising information technology and encourage harmonisation and feasibility in the utilisation of the vast assets already committed to information affairs.

Information technology changes the manner of communications between the public and the public sector and shortens lines of communication. Vitally important to implementation of the policy and a great boon to society as a whole is the public's ability to participate directly in policy formulation, making its wishes for improved governmental services and the utilisation of information technology known. Information technology offers this direct link.

Implementation of the policy rests on several important premises that must be regarded as priority projects among the many goals set forth here.

To ensure the above points in an implementation of the Government's policy in the affairs of the information society, the following measures will be taken:

1. The Prime Ministry supervises items relating to the comprehensive overview of the policy's implementation. The Ministry bears formal responsibility for co-ordination between ministries, the evaluation of results and a comprehensive re-examination of the policy. The Ministry approaches prioritisation of projects in the field of information technology through the budget.
2. The extensive consultation with the public sector with representatives of employers, wage earners and others, for which the Government's policy formulation is the foundation, will be continued and made permanent. Indications of such permanence already exist in several ministries. Where such indications are not in place, ministries will formulate permanent ways to prepare plans of implementation and have professional supervision of the implementation, for example, by establishing active work groups on the information society.
3. With regard to the ministries and their professional groups, computer conferences will be established, for example, as discussion groups on the Internet, creating a way for direct exchanges of opinions and communication to citizens and governmental authorities, and the public will be given an opportunity to present proposals for improved services that will be formally examined and processed.
4. The Government will establish special budget sections within ministries that are intended for projects in the field of information technology. In allocating the monies, priority shall be given to projects that:
  • conform to the Government's policy on information affairs;
  • promote increased rationalisation in government operations, improved services to the public or companies;
  • are utilised by more than one institution, company or a whole vocation;
  • are the subject of a tender offer.
5. The Government will make efforts to have the industrial and research funds increase the amount of money they grant to projects in the field of information technology, software development data processing and information services.
6. The following priority projects are defined and are an important part of the success of the Government's policy on issues of the information society:
  • A campaign promoting general computer literacy of the nation, pragmatic processing of information and assessment of its value. The campaign will be supported with an increased emphasis on instruction in the mother tongue and foreign languages.
  • Transport capacity and transport security of information in computer-readable format locally and internationally should meet standards and keep up with rapid growth in demand. The cost of data transport for the public and for companies should be minimal.
  • The Government's policy of tender offers will be enforced for the purchase of software for government institutions and ministries. An emphasis will thus be laid on participation by software manufacturers in development projects sponsored by the government institutions and better utilisation of the money they allocate to software.

The measures that have been specified here can, in the Government's judgement, mark an important step in a long journey toward the information society and knowledge which has been glimpsed in this vision of the future.

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