Social Policy – How the Norwegians Do It (2)
Social policy – social issues, inclusivity, accessibility, universal design, silver economy, social welfare –spanning all aforementioned topics prevailed throughout the study visit to Oslo attended by representatives of Polish cities and towns.

Held from January 22nd until January 26th 2024, the visit was joined by 11 representatives of cities and towns – beneficiaries of Norway Fund grants allocated to individual projects as part of the “Local Development” Programme. These included Kędzierzyn-Koźle, Konin, Ostrów Wielkopolski, Przemyśl, Stalowa Wola, Włocławek, Zabrze, Zgierz, Żary and Żywiec.

Universal design

Norway adopted a Universal Design Strategy in 2009, pursuant to which Norway will have become UNIVERSAL by 2025. Was the Strategy a success? A number of obstacles and multiple changes have appeared along the way. Regrettably, political change remained most significant throughout as an impediment to the change process. Nonetheless, 2024 brought many spectacular solutions allowing individuals threatened with architectonic and transportation exclusion to take advantage of the tourist, cultural and sports offer, while fully joining public and economic life.

Participants of the study visit were introduced to a review of experiences and solutions implemented by Norwegian municipalities. They found inspiration in discovering multiple interesting solutions, simplicity the most striking one of them all.

Social assistance and caregiving technologies in Oslo

Individual safety alarms – home and mobile solutions alike – remain a basic component of caring for persons requiring assistance. GPS-based and offering complete safety, mobile devices are usually intended for individuals with mental (cognitive) disorders, persons suffering of dementia in particular. Other state-of-the-art solutions include digitally controlled systems – medicine dispensation to pre-set schedules, and remote diagnoses and health condition monitoring (in case of diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.) – and general health condition monitoring devices.

What was the origin of the concept to focus on digital and remote services development?

Fundamental arguments include demographic change, growing population of the elderly, and an ever-increasing need for providing care and assistance at home. Developed nationally, the strategy of developing a community care system was tailormade to match local needs. Oslo follows its own strategy equivalent as well. How are Oslo’s strategy goals delivered in practice?

Efforts to boost caregiving technologies and integrate assorted systems across Oslo are based on the following assumptions:

  • Identical technologies have to be offered to residents of all Oslo districts, equal access to services one of the factors considered;
  • A coherent, high-quality service provision model has been developed – yet local conditions are unfailingly noticed, the model duly adapted (according to a bespoke handbook);
  • Empowering next of kin and volunteers to support dependants and incapacitated persons – i.a. by securing access to technologies allowing a family member / dependant’s safety to be monitored;
  • Technological development, experience sharing, seeking new solutions are all extremely important benefits of employing a systemic approach to caregiving and assistance services.

All services are ordered pursuant to a public task procurement system. Tests and pilot launches warrant the effectiveness of solutions proposed for implementation. Representative of the Oslo Municipal Authority: “We are experts on theory – our ideas have to be tested in practice”. Order contracts are entered into for no less than 4 to 6 years, with an option to extend for another 6 years.

It is of key importance for none of the aforesaid technological solutions to breach user safety or privacy.

The underlying notion has been that of generating a comprehensive and cohesive system spanning all solutions, following them all, using them and integrating them into a single model, individually designed to match each individual and his/her needs.

System integration turned out to be hugely significant, each system absorbing amazing data volumes. Data integration offered answers to many questions, allowing services to be developed, their efficacy improved.

Data protection remains a key challenge whenever such systems are built. Needs are analysed at the design, coding and testing stages. What kind of information do we need? What kind of information do we exactly need? What information is essential to us? – are the basic questions.

Once man is surrounded by assorted technologies, each collecting assorted data, a major threat to privacy and security arises. In isolation, data causes no change – yet when collated, it becomes a source of extraordinary analytical knowledge regarding specific individuals.

The next part of our Oslo visit-related account will showcase practical Norwegian solutions regarding assistance systems. We will also give the floor to participants of the study visit themselves.