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New Head of Department: "IT changes democracy"

Since the summer of 2015, Fredrika Lagergren Wahlin is the new Head of the Department of Applied IT. Arriving from the Department of Political Science, she thinks there is much in common between the fields.

Fredrika Lagergren WahlinSince the summer of 2015, Fredrika Lagergren Wahlin is the new Head of the Department of Applied IT. Arriving from the Department of Political Science, she thinks there is much in common between the fields.

– Democracy is a form of government in the process of change. Today it is being challenged by ideas related to globalization and the development of IT, she says. IT has changed the very foundation of our society, that is, the way in which we live our everyday lives. Now we can make immediate contact with everything and everyone. Normally, this would be considered a great advantage in a democracy, but it is also the cause of issues such as cyber bullying, constant connectivity and surveillance.

Technology does not only bring people closer together, but also creates closer contact to the authorities. Fredrika mentions the jobseekers allowance. It used to require one to turn the Unemployment Benefit Office to get a stamp on a paper, then turn to the Swedish Social Insurance Agency for another stamp and a final visit to another counter at the insurance agency to collect the actual reimbursement.

– It used to be like that way into the 1970s, but now it is completely gone. These days you are able to do your errands by logging onto the web. This means considerable power to those who master the technology, while things are more difficult for those who had preferred to collect a stamp.

Fredrika mentions further areas in which IT and political science converge. She brings up robotization, which has had an impact on the labour market and the vast influence of social media, the latter of which has attracted considerable interest among political scientists.

How do you view your role as Head of Department?

– As Head of Department I consider it a great honour to be part of directing an organization which sees to the challenges in society caused by digitalization in such a straightforward way. Therefore, an important part of my job is to make sure the research and education at the department, which, thus, include Chalmers and the University of Gothenburg, feature in the ongoing debate about digitalization and societal change.

– A considerable amount of the research and education at the department aims at direct application and spans a wide range; there is everything from researchers studying the use of IT for migration issues to researchers specializing in artificial intelligence. Thanks to this range and to the concrete applications, the department is characterized by dynamism and creativity. And I very much like the fact that we are located at Lindholmen!