High-Level Conference on Data Economy, reception at the Helsinki City Hall, 25 November 2019

Helsinki has opened more data than any other city in the world besides the City of New York. For us, open data means building trust, transparency, equity and innovation platforms. The basic foundation blocks of any successful city of today.

Helsinki’s vision is to be the most functional city in the world. This goal creates a great demand for smart and sustainable city solutions. The foundation for these solutions lies in our ability to combine technology innovations, information, insight, systemic change and educated work force with the understanding of how cities should function in the future.  This is further complicated by the high-paced nature of our world.

Open data is one basic asset in reaching our goal. The use of digitalization is another. With intelligent digitalization our mission is to move from reactive service developer to proactive solution provider. At its finest, tomorrow’s Helsinki will be able to predict and respond to customer’s needs in a more personalized way with convenient and easily reachable tools.

Tomorrow’s cities will be led with information. Data, analytics and metrics will reform management systems and decision-making. This requires decisive leadership and systemic change that will not only build infrastructure and capabilities – but understanding and acceptance. People are at the core of this change. What we want to provide is more quality of life. Data and digitalization are tools towards this goal – not the end result.

Last year Helsinki launched an ambitious digitalization program that includes not only new technologies, but the development of culture, organization, management and skills building. The overall goal is to build a city that will serve everyone in a way that suits their personal situation and needs. This can only be achieved with a comprehensive and forward-looking data strategy that is based on solid foundation of the ethics of data use and ownership.

Together with cities of London, Amsterdam, Paris and New York we will attempt to define ethical principles for the use of data and artificial intelligence. The goal is to utilize data responsibly with the permission of residents for the benefit of all. Nation states and the EU have worked in the same issue. The challenge is that as technologies move forward they will not wait for our process to be complete. International corporations, as well as smaller start-ups, innovate every day. Regulation can cap some of the potential negative impacts of data use but in the big picture our shared rules must be practically applicable. That’s why I claim that cities will play even a bigger role in the future.

2.5 billion people are expected to be added to the world’s urban areas from 2018 to 2050. That’s a total of 68% of the world’s population living in cities. This presents ever new communities with the challenge of providing digital infrastructure and basic data services for people, who are grown used to the effortless interfaces and high consumerism of the big corporates. Our job as public service providers is to make sure that people are educated and protected in this new world.

I believe that one way to make sure we are able to fulfill this role is to find even better ways for public-private collaborations and models for co-development. Beyond other cities, Helsinki works together with Mastercard, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the World Economic Forum to have an impact on the global scale of systemic change. Back home, we purpose the use of best information and international benchmarks to make sure that people stay at the core of this development.