Preschool aged children.

A preschool place with one SMS – the pilot project was a success in Helsinki

Helsinki wants to be a City that anticipates the service needs of its clients and that offers services regardless of time and place. The pilot project carried out in two early childhood education areas in January was a step in this direction. During the experiment, the City offered children nearing preschool age a preschool place directly with a text message. The SMS was sent automatically to the parents and no application was required. The experiment was a success.

The pilot project was carried out in the areas Kulosaari-Herttoniemi-Laajasalo and Kaarela-Pohjoinen. During the pilot project, the City sent text messages to the guardians of 1,058 children nearing preschool age. A preschool place at the nearest preschool was offered in the text message, and guardians could accept the spot by responding to the message. 93 per cent of the guardians responded to the message and, eventually, no fewer than 880 families, more than four in five, accepted the spots. The rest of the families chose to submit an application concerning the pre-primary education arrangements or to change the spot offered to them. The City’s goal has always been to offer the traditional service option as well when digital services are implemented.

Service without filling in forms and making calls

The purpose of the digital services of the City is to make Helsinki residents’ everyday lives easier. In this case, for instance, there were no forms to fill in and no phone calls to preschools were needed. Offering preschool places proactively eases the workload not only for the guardians of the children, but also for the directors of the day-care centres, as the processing of applications will mainly be eliminated. Despite the automation, the proactive offering of a preschool place does not force the guardian to accept the place offered. The official decisions are sent out in March, both to those who have accepted the offer and to those who have participated in the application phase.

‘The experiment gave us good experiences about how these kinds of proactive services make the lives of parents and, at the same time, our employees easier. Now it is nice to expand the service to the whole city’, says Executive Director of the Education Division Liisa Pohjolainen.

The pilot project genuinely helped people in their everyday lives by saving time and effort. The proactive City services will be expanded according to experiences acquired during the experiment. Next year, preschool places will be offered proactively in half of the city, that is, in five early childhood education areas. The aim is to expand the service to the whole city. Using the same technology, it may also be possible to replace other manual applications to the City services. This is how the new digital Helsinki works.

The Proactive preschool place project is a key project of the digital citizen services section in the City of Helsinki Digitalisation Programme. Using the Digitalisation Programme as a means, the City intends to develop services that anticipate the needs of the Helsinkians and meet their requirements in an increasingly individual manner. The technical implementation is based on BookIT Finland Ltd’s text message solution.

Photo: Helsinki Material Bank