Kimmo Karhu and Janne Kantsila.

Mobilising information for better resident services

Pro-active services using artificial intelligence! Better decisions through knowledge-based management! Better availability of the City of Helsinki’s data to actors outside the city administration! With these goals in mind, Helsinki is now formulating a Data Strategy.

As of January 1st, Kimmo Karhu (on the left in the picture) started work as a Head of Data at the City of Helsinki. At his work, he is in charge of the data strategy and its implementation.

“The important thing is to get data moving, both within the city administration and among our external partners. In a manner of speaking, the City can be seen as a platform for various municipal entities that function as independent actors. The platform will work best if we manage to come up with some common rules and encourage groups to share information,” Karhu says.

Data Strategy outlines where municipal information can be used

The City of Helsinki’s Data Strategy makes it easier to make better decisions based on facts and figures. It also defines the City’s key informational content, permanent data resources, organisation methods and required resources. The ethics of data use is also an important consideration: What kinds of things can Helsinki use its collected data for, and who maintains ownership of the data?

“The objective of the Data Strategy is to set up good rules that municipal players stick to, and that the City would provide a data platform that is of help to both individual actors and sectors,” Karhu says.

Framework and support for applying robotics

Another Helsinki goal is to promote the introduction and use of robotics. Clever expansion of the use of robots could have many useful applications for both Helsinki residents and staff.

Robotics are already in use in various parts of the city organisation, for example, in finance unit processes. Other robotics trials include the use of chatbots in service production. Part of the city organisation is still pondering the possibilities that robotics could bring. Janne Kantsila (on the right in the picture), a Robotics Senior planning officer, started work at Helsinki City Executive Office in early January 2020.

“Our goal is to improve public service processes through automation. It allows us to look at public services from altogether new angles. We are not out to automate everything; we only seek to apply automation where it is of the greatest benefit. Automation and robotics are not an end in themselves, nor are they cure-alls. Automation is good for some things and not so good for others. But when it is applied optimally, it can bring a decisive advantage,” Kantsila says.

An important part of this work is to spread awareness within the city administration of what is possible to achieve with robotics and when and how it offers benefits. Successful implementation would mean that employees could focus on those things that humans do best and robots could assist them.

Helsinki’s administration has already piloted several service digitalisation projects, such as preschool placement with SMS searches and the introduction of a robot counsellor answering health-related questions 24 hours a day. Find more information on the City’s innovative digitalisation trials at digi.hel.fi.
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