We need the ability to experiment and to re-imagine things
The change brought on by the coronavirus pandemic showed that a large part of our society was ready for a quick digital leap. In May 2020 about 59% of working people in Finland started doing remote work and electronic use of public services grew by 54%. On the other hand, the pandemic also brought an increase in inequality in society. Remote work or conducting business electronically are not possible for everyone.
Janne Viskari, Director General of the Digital and Population Data Services Agency, says that the coronavirus pandemic exposed the strengths of Finland's digital infrastructure, but also the unused potential for helping peoples lives run smoothly.
"A society that is becoming increasingly digitised requires us to strengthen the kind of administrative practice that is capable of imagining and testing things anew. Developing hybrid public services requires continuous change to the administrative culture and way of thinking in the public sector to ensure that services could be developed primarily as digital services without detracting from other forms of service. Our country's strong electronic identity management and our basic registers make many things possible that cannot be done in other places. Consequently, special attention needs to be paid to issues of responsibility. For example, automatic services require meticulous ethical assessment from perspectives of equality, legislation, and trust", Viskari says.
Trust and digital skills hold key positions
The digital shift will further underscore the importance of digital skills. Rumours, conspiracy theories, disinformation, and cybercrime have spread during the pandemic and increased instability. Digital competence is becoming a new civic skill that enables people to become full-fledged parts of society and its operations. Digitalisation must not be a discriminatory force; access to services, accessibility, and equality need more attention than before.
Viskari feels that building and maintaining trust hold a key position in our society.
"Maintaining and increasing trust will be among the most important goals of public administration and measures of success in the future. Trust is inspired by a society in which people feel included, and whose administrative mechanisms are comprehensible, and which sit well with the Finnish value base", Viskari says.
The coronavirus pandemic has shown the whole world that threats to health security have generally been underestimated. Viskari feels that threats to health will have to be re-evaluated in the future in a completely new way and must be considered as parts of comprehensive security and government contingency plans.
"Not even preparations connected with health can be thought of as being separate from the rest of society. In a complex world, there are many interconnected states of dependence, and the coronavirus has made it regrettably clear that there has been a gaping hole the size of a pandemic threat in our overall model for security."
The Digital and Population Data Services Agency released the Digihumaus 2021 report "Perspectives for a post-coronavirus pandemic digital leap". The report is a continuity of the Digihumaus reports from the two previous years. The report for 2021 focuses on how the coronavirus pandemic has affected society and public administration in Finland.
Source: Digital and Population Data Services Agency (The Finnish Digital Agency)