Genre photo: a drone flying in over a city
Drones are more and more common, both in cities and rural areas. Flight plans need to be considered in order to avoid collisions, conference participants concluded. Photo: Andrew Coop/Unsplash.

Anthony Finkelstein was the first keynote speaker at the Digitalize in Stockholm 2021 conference on October 20–21. He is Professor and President of City, University of London, and has previously served as Chief Scientific Adviser in the UK government, addressing problems of national security and defence.

“Science and digital technologies are domains of strategic competition between states. We need to focus more on geopolitical contexts”, said Anthony Finkelstein.

Democracy at danger

Portrait photo of Anthony Finkelstein, Professor and President of City, University of London
Anthony Finkelstein. Photo: Private.

He warned about authoritarian states using new technology, for instance in smart cities, to shift power from citizens to politicians. We need ongoing discussions on democracy and values in society.

“Having a laissez faire-approach, or let markets lead the way, is high risk for liberal democracies who are faced with states willing to dominate. We need to have a much more active, forward leaning approach”, said Finkelstein.

It is not just about protecting research, it is about protecting the innovation eco system as a whole. Big tech companies’ interests are not always what’s best for society.

“The democratic debate needs to be at the centre of this. And we need governance that is technologically literate”, said Anthony Finkelstein.

During the conference, participants could listen to keynotes from international speakers, panel talks initiated by big Swedish companies, and parallel presentations from the many research projects within the Digital Futures collaboration. Many of the presenters came from Stockholm University and the Department of Computer and Systems Sciences (DSV).

Several projects were in e-health. Hercules Dalianis and Uno Fors presented how they use language technology to protect personal data in medical journals. Airi Lampinen discussed how the users of a pregnancy app develop trust and other emotions. And Panagiotis Papapetrou talked about an ongoing project where machine learning helps doctors make better informed decisions.

Covid-19 rehab is tested online

Portrait photo of Erik Perjons, Department of Computer and Systems Sciences, Stockholm University
Erik Perjons. Photo: Jens Olof Lasthein.

Erik Perjons and Martin Henkel presented a new project in which they, in collaboration with private companies and clinicians at Danderyd hospital in Stockholm, develop an online rehabilitation system for people suffering from long-term Covid-19 symptoms.

“This is a two-year Triple Helix project. We are targeting the large number of patients who have severe problems with for example fatigue and concentration. The clinics are overwhelmed”, said Erik Perjons.

Online rehabilitation can ease the burden for ordinary health care. The aim is to help patients understand their own symptoms, increase their motivation and help them train to possibly overcome the symptoms.

“Clinicians say that they want to be able to change the training, so it is more adjusted to each individual. They also want to do follow ups, learn more and improve rehabilitation programs.”

“After two successful pilot studies, we are looking forward to involve more patients”, said Erik Perjons.

The final speaker in a long row of keynotes was Elizabeth Churchill, Director of User Experience at Google and honorary doctor at Stockholm University.

“I work with tools that designers and developers can use to create including, user friendly, and great experiences. The tools provide infrastructures for thinking”, said Elizabeth Churchill.

Portrait photo of Elizabeth Churchill, Director of User Experience at Google
Elizabeth Churchill. Photo: Private.

Just like previous speakers, she had been asked to imagine the year 2040. Churchill chose to start by looking back a decade.

“The first Ipad was launched in 2010. I don’t know about you, but I use my tablet for everything. And parents use them to both educate and entertain their kids.”

Inclusive and sustainable

Churchill also mentioned the modern sharing economy, and the widespread use of emojis where people of different colours and with diverse abilities are represented. Emojis can be seen as a marginal or even ridiculous example, but they have had an impact on how we work and think. It is something that few of us would’ve been able to predict.

Sustainability, both environmental and social, is a central theme in Elizabeth Churchill’s vision for the future. In line with Anthony Finkelstein’s keynote, she argued that governance is important. When politicians say that technology has to be more accessible, it will make a difference for citizens.

Churchill sees great potential in areas like telemedicine and telehealth.

“Technology should help relations – not stand in their way”, said Elizabeth Churchill.


More about Digitalize in Stockholm 2021

Would you like to see video from the conference? It is uploaded on Digital Future’s Youtube channel

Interview with Professor Uno Fors, Department of Computer and Systems Sciences (DSV), who is one of the organizers (article in Swedish)

The first Digitalize in Stockholm was a physical conference in 2019. In 2020, the conference was all digital. In 2021, it was organized as a hybrid conference. Some guests were present in the Stockholm studio, and the rest of the speakers and participants followed the event online.

The conference was organized by Digital Futures, a collaboration between Stockholm University, KTH and RISE. A large number of private and public organizations are partners.

Visit the website for Digitalize in Stockholm 2021 if you want to know more about the conference, see the program or read about the speakers.

A Swedish version of this article is also available