Data produced by Helsinki is world’s most usable and used city data by 2025. Photo: Maija Astikainen

Data produced by Helsinki is world’s most usable and used city data by 2025

The City of Helsinki has approved an ambitious Data Strategy. The objective of Helsinki is to enhance the utilisation of data and analytics, in order to be able to produce individual and tailored services for the city residents, proactively and when they need them. Utilising data and analytics allows for knowledge management as well: the city can make increasingly informed decisions, forecast the impact of different measures and automate decision-making.

“Helsinki's vision is to be the most functional city in the world. An essential part of this vision is creating an ambitious Digitalisation Programme and the hiring of the city's first Chief Digital Officer last year. The Data Strategy that has now been completed is an internationally significant initiative and it enables the construction of many kinds of new capabilities for the city. Seizing opportunities is essential in the recovery from the corona crisis. Here, city data plays an important part both for Helsinki and for the companies and communities in the city”, says Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori.

Making use of data and analytics furthers City operations on a wide scale

Helsinki wants to be a public sector pioneer in the utilisation of data. The City’s Data Strategy has been drafted with especially the following benefits and changes in mind:

1. The service needs of the customers can be anticipated with data

The proactive allocation of the city services requires extensive utilisation of analytics and data. At the same time, the city of Helsinki is committed to the MyData principle, according to which the city residents must be able to manage the use of the data that has been collected of them. It means that the people of Helsinki must be able to manage the data that city collects of them, authorise the use of the data in the different city services and, if needed, deny the use of their data.

2. The management of Helsinki is based on current knowledge

Data concerning the city operations, residents and development is generated continuously, and the city's reports, statistics and studies provide the decision-makers with research-based knowledge. However, at the moment, data is not utilised in the decision-making to the extent that modern-day analytical techniques would allow for. For example, the digital twin that has been created from the city model makes it possible to study the city operations and simulate the results of alternative decisions in many ways even before the decision-making.

3. City operations and resources optimised with data

Up-to-date data and advanced analytics enable a more economical allocation of personnel operations and resources. The use of robotic process automation and data will also help improve the automation and interoperability of the city's internal processes.

4. Livelier business life through sharing data

The data managed by the city of Helsinki should be made increasingly available for sharing and utilisation, also on platform basis for use in ecosystems outside the city. External players, such as communities, universities and companies can use the city’s data to conduct research and develop services that the city does not offer. This would be beneficial to all parties.

“One of the most important development areas in our Digitalisation Programme is improving the data and AI capabilities. Our Data Strategy sets important ground rules for the utilisation of data. The world's most usable city data makes for a great change: a city, which anticipates the need for services, on the people's terms. In the future, we can use data to anticipate the people’s and companies’ different needs for data and services and, for instance, in the promotion of health and well-being, prevention will play an increasingly important role”, says city of Helsinki Chief Digital Officer Mikko Rusama.

The coronavirus-related knowledge management and management of personal data are concrete examples of the utilisation of data in the city operations

The coronavirus outbreak has highlighted the importance of the utilisation of data and analytics. In accordance with the data strategy, the city is currently developing both desktop solutions for the management, which offer an up-to-date view into the coronavirus situation, and prediction models based on machine learning and simulations, which can be used for anticipating the resource needs in health care.

The management of personal data is essential to the city. Personal data is processed in around half of the city's data systems. The trust between the city and the city resident is key: the city residents must be able to understand how the city uses data. The city collects a lot of data of the city residents, but the problem is that the data is scattered and often unavailable for the purposes where it would be the most beneficial. Thus, simple and comprehensible consents to processing data are important in order to make sure that the person understands what they are allowing. In its Data Strategy, the city of Helsinki declares that it will hereafter adhere to the MyData principles in the processing of personal data.

“The city is sitting on a true gold mine. If the city is able to increase the efficiency in the utilisation of its data, then it will become a true win-win situation; the city will be able to save money and improve its services while, at the same time, the residents will enjoy a better quality of life”, says Kimmo Karhu, Head of Data at the city of Helsinki.

The Helsinki Data Strategy is based on the goals of the city’s Digitalisation Programme, which the City of Helsinki Management Group approved in March 2019. The programme is a description of how the city strategy’s vision of the most functional city in the world and the city in the world that best capitalises on digitalisation is achieved by means of digitalisation. The development of the city's data capabilities is one of the most essential goals of the Digitalisation Programme. Data enables all the strategic objectives of the Digitalisation Programme and the digital leap is practically not possible without efficient utilisation of data and artificial intelligence.