Tech for Society: technology as a building block for a sustainable and equal society

Demos Helsinki is helping public administration and companies to widen their perception of the technological shift. We have done considerable research and development projects on the societal and business impact of technology, including the Naked Approach initiative funded by Tekes (Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation), and the Ministry of Finance’s Tavoite 2025 (Aim 2025) initiative.

Digitalisation is a cross-cutting driver of change in society. The race of major nations to develop artificial intelligence, the rise of the platform economy, and the impact of tech giants have in recent years shown the significant influence of technology on how individuals, communities and societies function. 

“We are not only dealing with a technological shift, but also how this change affects society. Every actor holds a responsibility to consider technological development also in terms of the surrounding world. Together we can create a society where new technology increases justice instead of inequality”, says Demos Helsinki’s senior consultant Johannes Mikkonen.

In the strategic project Naked Approach, funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation Tekes, Demos Helsinki researched the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) on Finnish society and businesses together with VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and five universities. The project was concluded in 2018 and its main points of research were a wide societal vision and the creation of a pioneer market in Finland.

The research on pioneer markets focused on development communities, meaning the pinpointing of different market needs and the development of new business models. The research on the societal vision included four theses for how technological development helps to create a sustainable and equal society. The themes of the theses are connected to future questions surrounding the platform economy, businesses, innovations, and value creation.

“The aim is to understand the role of people as citizens and as users in a digital world that is developing from something device-centric into something user-centric. The vision work linked strongly to the building of a hyperconnected society based on Nordic strengths, such as high levels of trust and equality”, Johannes Mikkonen explains. 

The Ministry of Finance’s ‘Goal 2025’: public administration in the digital era     

The conversation paper derived from the Tavoite 2025 (Goal 2025) project also focused on societal change brought upon by technology. The paper isolated certain requirements for shaping public administration in the digital era. In addition, operational suggestions for pioneering information policy were also formulated. 

In order to fulfil its basic function in a changing world, public administration needs to be able to change. The help of technologies and the adaptation of new procedures make it possible to enhance the quality of public administration along with better performance and economic efficiency. One of the central features of a digital era public administration is the people-centric organisation of services.

“Digitalisation offers significant opportunities to reorganise public services more efficiently, more safely and in a more participatory manner than currently. Achieving these opportunities requires, among other things, wide collaboration, in-depth digitalisation of services and customer-driven service models”, Johannes Mikkonen says.

The initiative used methods of co-creation and brought together a group of experts, project leads and officials working in the public administration’s information and communications technology (ICT) tasks. 

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Read more: 

The Nordic Digital Promise publication online.

Publication on the promise of lifelong learning in public administration and the opportunities of governance innovation in the digital era (in Finnish).