The Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) was tasked by the Swedish Government with evaluating the work undertaken by the Swedish Broadband Forum (SBF) in the period 2010–2014. We have analysed the focus, working methods and organisational structure of the SBF and the results of its work. We are also assessing the focus of the SBF's future work and the organisational structure most appropriate to this.
The SBF's role and organisational structure
The SBF is to act as a venue for dialogue and collaboration between the Government and organisations and businesses involved in the Swedish broadband market. The aim is to find constructive solutions that can contribute to the nationwide expansion of broadband. This work involves an exchange of opinions on and noting opportunities and barriers to such an expansion.
The SBF is part of the Government Offices of Sweden (Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation) and is arranged into a steering group that appoints working groups for specific issues. The SBF also has a secretariat that is an independent group working out of the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS).
On the whole, a relevant focus
Statskontoret assesses that the SBF has, on the whole, focused its work on issues that are essential to the nationwide expansion of broadband. At an early stage, the SBF analysed key barriers to and solutions for this expansion. However, some participants in the forum have indicated that the most recent working groups have not had such a clear link to the nationwide expansion of broadband.
The SBF has run a productive enterprise and has drawn up over fifty proposals concerning the development of broadband and some concrete instructions. The SBF has also implemented ambitious initiatives that aim to increase knowledge about broadband and the forum's activities within municipalities and local network associations. The different roles have complemented one another in a constructive way. Dialogue and collaboration have, for example, been an essential element in allowing the participants to agree to joint proposals.
Flexible working methods and clear organisational structure
Statskontoret believes that the SBF's procedure has incorporated an appropriate combination of formal and information elements. The working methods have been flexible and have thus facilitated an open climate for cooperation and the production of constructive proposals.
The SBF's status as a special project within the Government Offices has contributed to the forum being perceived as a neutral venue for constructive collaboration between the parties involved. Work has also been facilitated by the members of the steering group having senior management positions within their respective organisations. Our assessment is that the Minister's role as chair of the steering group has been key to ensuring such participation. The working groups have carried out their duties in a clear and well-structured manner. In addition, the secretariat has functioned effectively, with an important role in supporting the SBF's work.
Lack of clear responsibility for implementation and a blunt model for follow-up
The SBF lacks the authority to decide both how and by whom its proposals will be implemented. The stakeholders concerned are more likely to take on this responsibility on their own initiative if the responsibility is clearly identified. However, Statskontoret concludes that it is sometimes unclear who is expected to take on the responsibility for implementation. Nor are some proposals sufficiently concrete with respect to the action that needs to be taken.
The SBF's work to follow-up its proposals is important in order to further the continued expansion of broadband. However, the model used for follow-up is too blunt for this aim. Follow-up has also become an increasingly significant task for the SBF's secretariat.
Strengthened collaboration and some concrete results
The SBF's activities are an early link in a long a complex chain of initiatives that have a tangible impact on the expansion of broadband. However, it is our assessment that the SBF has made an overall contribution to improving the conditions for the nationwide expansion of broadband.
One of the SBF's most important results is that it has brought about strong collaboration and increased consensus between important stakeholders in this area. This has contributed to illustrating shared problems and key challenges and to reducing the propensity for conflict between stakeholders.
To some extent the SBF's work has left a tangible impression. For example, the SBF's work has made the funding of broadband easier and has clearly set out the role of municipalities in broadband expansion. To some extent, the SBF's work has also been used by municipalities and local network associations.
Future focus and organisational structure
Statskontoret believes that the SBF's future organisational structure should be based on the future focus of the forum's work. Our assessment is that the SBF's should continue with the majority of its current duties. It is also appropriate for the SBF to be given the new role of supporting actors at the regional level in matters relating to broadband.
Consider the working groups' focus in the future
It is especially important to consider which issues future working groups in the SBF should focus on in more detail. Statskontoret sees two possible overarching focuses. The first is a continued focus on the nationwide expansion of broadband. The second is a broader focus on how issues concerning the use of broadband services have an impact on the expansion of broadband. Statskontoret believes that the SBF, or those deemed appropriated by the Government, should, together with concerned parties, carry out a new, broad analysis of important future challenges with regards to the expansion or use of broadband.
The current organisational structure is the most advantageous
Statskontoret's assessment is that the SBF's current organisational structure as a special project within the Government Offices is the more advantageous that organising the forum as a central government public commission of inquiry or as an advisory office within the PTS. For example, the current organisational structure has contributed to the forum being perceived as an independent venue. This structure also provides a flexibility that encourages collaboration and makes it easier to draw up proposals. In addition, it offers a proximity to the political leadership, which is important to enabling prioritised proposals to be driven forward.
Important issues in the current process
Statskontoret believes it is important for the SBF to work independently. If the SBF were to be given a wider remit focusing on the use of broadband, it may be appropriate to consider moving the secretariat out of the PTS. A wider remit for the SBF may also lead to the focus of its activities becoming too heterogeneous. In such a case, there may be grounds to consider whether responsibility for the SBF's various roles should be divided up between different organisations. Finally, Statskontoret believes that the Government, via the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation, should have a more distinct role in terms of assessing which of the proposals that the SBF has already made will be prioritised. In cases where is appropriate, the Government should also take the initiative to make it clear who can take responsibility for realising each of the proposals.