We live in an interconnected, fast-paced, solutions-oriented and human-centered society. As the world around us moves faster and faster people expect that their decision-makers and administrators follow this pace. Time has become of essence. As media reaches anyone on the opposite side of the world in mere seconds and transformations around us move in the speed of light information, data and access to it have become the most important societal currency. Without open access to information, we can have no trust. Without data and analysis we can have no informed decision-making.
Since 2017 targeted international collaboration and global outlook has been in the core of Helsinki’s strategy. We have been successful in generating new resources, information and knowledge from our global partnerships. We have been able to proceed with digital transformation faster with our global partners. And we have been able to have influence over the global conversations that have a direct impact on Helsinki’s ability to succeed in global competition.
Transformations like climate crisis, urbanization and Covid-19 pandemic have also forced us to speed up our collaboration with not only together with other cities, but city networks and global NGO’s like World Economic Forum. Data is at the core of many of these conversations.
Already years ago, Helsinki made the decision to open as much of its data as possible. Data as a new currency was not the reason. The then-leadership of Helsinki based their decision on the fact that opening up data is the right thing to do. And a necessity. Many of the decisions and leadership positions we have been able to take since then have been in part based on our forward-looking position as the city that has opened more data than perhaps any other city in the world.
We are now about to take the next step on this journey. Creating an affiliate center for the 4th industrial revolution in Helsinki and Finland is a concrete beacon for collaboration that has already proven transformational for Helsinki. It would also allow us to allocate resources, focus and partnerships in a more targeted way within Finland. It is fitting that the proposed focus of the center would be data policy – one of the most concrete development directions in order to ensure a functional modern democracy.
Data policy questions are increasingly important for societies and organizations as digitalization advances into using AI and other data-driven approaches. Especially in the context of cities, where most of the data collected is personal data, it is important to make sure that data is used in a secure, fair, and transparent manner. Helsinki wants to push forward a human-centric approach where citizens are put into the center when considering how their personal data is used.
A very concrete example of this is, that during this year we aim to become a MyData operator as one of the first cities in the world. Helsinki will allow its citizens to control how their data is used. With citizens’ consent, Helsinki can provide them personalized services in a proactive manner. This is a major step towards realizing the core of our digital strategy. A practical example of success is that we have piloted proactive pre-school placement where around 90% of participating families accepted the placement with a single SMS message.
In the future great things can only be achieved in collaboration between national governments, local and regional governments, the private sector and NGO’s. This is also true in the global scale.
The city of Helsinki cannot achieve its objectives on its own but needs active partners especially from the private sector. We see the World Economic Forum Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network as an exciting platform for developing these partnerships. We also see it as an opportunity to level the playing field and framework for data use and protection in a human-centric way.
In preparation for the Affiliate Center we have placed a fellow in the Center to further develop the collaboration between Finland, Helsinki and the World Economic Forum and lay ground for our further collaboration. The next natural step in this development is finding out, if the private sector in Finland is prepared to participate in this collaboration and sees value in it for their business and development.
We have arranged this roundtable to inspire open and wide-based conversation about setting up a Center for the 4th Industrial Revolution Affiliate in Helsinki and Finland. We hope that the participants in this meeting today recognize benefits of such collaboration for their companies and are willing and able to join in the development of the initiative, which cannot happen with public sector institutions alone. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.”
Photo: Mikael Ahlfors