It’s no prank.
Sweden wants to talk to you.
If you are lucky, even the Swedish prime minister will talk to you.
Callers to “The Swedish Number” in Sweden – world’s first country to have its own phone number – were in for a big surprise when the country’s prime minister himself started taking the calls, The Local reported.
The concept of the Swedish Number (+ 46 771 793 336) is that anybody in the world can call this number and they’ll be connected to a “Telephone Ambassador,” a random Swede from any part of Sweden, and then the caller can have a conversation with this telephone ambassador about any topic under the sun.
For a brief while, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven took a break from the heavy-duty task of running a country and turned into a bona fide telephone ambassador, answering calls on behalf of Sweden, greeting callers, making small talk, trying to convince people on the other side of the line that he was indeed who he was claiming to be.
Quite a few of the callers had trouble taking him at his word.
Stefan Löfven: Hello, I’m Stefan Löfven, I’m the Swedish prime minister, welcome, I’m glad that you’ve called Sweden…
Caller 1: Is this an actual call?
Caller 2: Wait, how do I know that you are the Swedish prime minister?
Stefan Löfven: Well… I believe you have to trust me.
Trust deficit seemed to be an issue in the initial stages of the calls, but once the skeptical callers allowed themselves to be convinced that it was indeed the Swedish prime minister speaking, things went much more smoothly.
Which brings us to a noteworthy fact: conveying power on the telephone is a tricky business. When the stranger on the other end can’t see you, they can also choose not to believe your identity, especially if you claim to be someone powerful or popular.
So apart from being a phone call, it also immediately becomes a prove-your-identity exercise for the powerful/popular person. This can also explain why powerful people generally have a few people hanging around them all the time. The hangers-on do the task of telling the world about the powerful entity, who risk losing their shine if they do the deed themselves. In other words, power is not exercised in isolation, it needs the help of other people.
So Stefan Löfven taking calls directly from foreign nationals – who could very well imagine him to be a prankster, or ask him the most uncomfortable of questions – is quite something. Leaders with an authoritarian streak in them, leaders with something to hide, may not allow themselves to be exposed in such a manner (unless they are assured of safe, rigged calls).
Check out this short video, released online on Thursday, where the Swedish prime minister does his bit as a telephone ambassador, taking phone calls from all over the world.
The Swedish Number is the brainchild of the Swedish Tourist Association and has a rather roundabout connection with censorship.
This is how it is explained on the Swedish Number website.
“250 years ago, in 1766, Sweden became the first country in the world to introduce a constitutional law to abolish censorship. To honor this anniversary, Sweden is now the first country in the world to introduce its own phone number. Call today and get connected to a random Swede, anywhere in Sweden and talk about anything you want.”
“Talk about anything you want,” without any fear of censorship — that’s the censorship connection.
There are no eligibility requirements for becoming a telephone ambassador. According to the site, anyone who lives in Sweden can register themselves as a telephone ambassador. They just have to download an app on their phone, which will allow them to receive calls made to the Swedish Number.
Till now, around 17,000 Swedes have downloaded the app. Over 89,000 calls have already been received. People from 173 countries have called.
If this concept spreads to other countries, and more heads of states start answering calls, which world leader would you want to talk to most?
[Image via Shutterstock/Richard Peterson]