Extension granted to working group examining the digital leap forward
The Ministry of Transport and Communications has granted an extension to the working group examining how to turn the steps taken during the coronavirus crisis into a permanent digital leap forward. The extension was granted until 30 September 2020. During the extension period, the task of the group is to complete the report and draw up an action plan for digitalisation projects to be implemented after the epidemic.
In the beginning of May, the Ministry of Transport and Communications appointed the working group, Digital measures in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis (in Finnish: Digitaaliset keinot koronaviruskriisin jälkihoidossa), for the period from 4 May to 31 May 2020. The group was tasked with assessing the effects of the digitalisation process that took place during the emergency conditions and drawing up proposals to speed up the recovery process.
The interim report of the working group has been sent out for comments with a deadline of 22 June 2020. During the extension period, from 1 June to 30 September 2020, the group will have to finalise the report and its roadmap based on, for example, the comments and feedback from the interim report.
Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka states on the basis of the interim report published on 3 June 2020 that the exceptional situation has increased people's awareness and changed attitudes, digital forms of work and business, equipment and services.
"During the extension period, the group should also respond to the aims of the Government Programme in promoting digitalisation. It seems natural that the next step is to map out those measures of digitalisation that promote Finland's rapid recovery from the coronavirus crisis," Minister Harakka says.
"From a wider perspective, this directly implements the Government Programme which specifically requires that the administration and legislation environment be made even more favourable to digitalisation," Minister says.
Threshold to start using online stores and digital services has lowered, but there are differences in use
Because of the state of emergency due to the coronavirus epidemic, digital practices have rapidly been introduced in society to allow the everyday life continue while social interaction between people has decreased. For businesses, digitalisation has provided a way to reduce the economic losses caused by the crisis. The interim report includes an estimate of the long-term development of these digital practices.
According to the report, the communications networks and the availability of communications services are good in Finland and provide a sound basis for digitalisation. Finns have a broad range of electronic means of communications in their use and reasonably good basic digital skills. They use digital services a lot and during the coronavirus crisis the use has even increased.
This became evident in the smooth transition to both remote work and study and, for example, in the broad range of public digital services available and in the enhanced remote support. Business, industry and NGOs as well as operators in the recreational and cultural services swiftly put their service provision online.
However, in addition to the good general situation, the report reveals substantial differences in people's digital skills and in the usability of terminal equipment and services
Six sets of measures
In its report, the working group lists six sets of measures and nearly 40 individual measures. The topics of the proposals include maintaining the basic requirements of digitalisation, such as the availability and interoperability of efficient communications connections and key technologies, as well as strengthening the digital capabilities of businesses and the digital skills and rights of people.
According to the report, the wide use of digital services calls for promoting the availability and accessibility of the services. This means that more measures are needed to increase the innovative and versatile nature of public and private sector services.
The working group proposes that legislation be further developed in a more digitalisation and innovation-oriented direction. It also proposes possible financial incentives.
According to the interim report, the crisis has so far shown that there is still room for improvement in the utilisation of data. In Finland, the availability of up-to-date, interoperable and machine-readable data should be accelerated in order to promote the development and introduction of artificial intelligence and new business models.
The group's work is based on the Programme of Prime Minister Sanna Marin's Government that aims at turning Finland into a front runner in technological advances, innovative procurement and the culture of experimentation. One of the measures in the Programme is to improve the legislative environment and administration so that they will provide a favourable environment for digitalisation and sustainable development.
The working group will be chaired by Laura Vilkkonen, Director General at the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The group will have members from ministries, research institutes and stakeholder organisations.
What are the next steps?
The working group on the digital measures for the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis will continue from 1 June to 30 September 2020.
The deadline for comments on the interim report is 22 June 2020.
The request for comments has been published at www.lausuntopalvelu.fi. Comments may be submitted by all organisations and private individuals.
Matti Sadeniemi, Special Adviser, tel. +358 40 586 7234
Laura Vilkkonen, Director General, tel. +358 40 500 0817