Chief Digital Officers of Helsinki and London: Mikko Rusama and Theo Blackwell. Picture: Greater London Authority

London and Helsinki announce new digital co-operation

London and Helsinki will work together to embrace the opportunities presented by artificial intelligence, open data and digital innovation as part of a new agreement between the cities’ Chief Digital Officers. 

The ‘City to City Digital Declaration’ – signed by London’s Theo Blackwell and Helsinki’s Mikko Rusama – sets out several new areas of collaboration between the two capitals, including:

  • the ethical use of data and artificial intelligence for better citizen engagement and improved public services;
  • sharing knowledge of artificial intelligence and its use in smart city solutions;
  • learning from successful data sharing approaches across public services, 3D city modelling and the concept of ‘digital twins’; and
  • encouraging digital innovation by supporting entrepreneurs and citizens to collaborate.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, wants to see the benefits of new technology shared by all Londoners, and for that to happen in a way which protects London’s citizens, consumers, companies and economic interests.

London is Europe’s leading tech hub – its thriving tech community is growing rapidly and is driving much of the innovation across Europe. More than a third of all Europe’s tech giants are based in London and contribute in excess of £56 billion to our economy. In 2018, London’s tech companies received £1.8 billion of investment (nearly three-quarters of the total investment into entire UK sector (according to research published by the Mayor’s promotional agency, London & Partners, and Pitchbook).

Helsinki produces almost 50 per cent of the tech sector’s turnover in Finland: more than half of the country’s IT companies are based in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. There are also sizeable telecommunications (more than 130 companies, 4,500 personnel), software development (1,900 companies, 18,300 personnel) and information supply (780 companies, 2,300 employees) sectors.

Both cities have recently set out ambitious plans to mobilise their talent, assets and data to improve quality of life for their residents – and are keen to share best practices and expertise in order to meet social, environmental and economic challenges.

London’s Chief Digital Officer, Theo Blackwell, said: “London has made huge advances in the application of data and smart technologies for the benefit of those who live, work or visit here. We should always embrace the opportunity to share our civic tech innovations, particularly with fellow European cities, as we are demonstrating through the Sharing Cities initiative.

“This Digital Declaration sets out a formal framework for co-operation between Helsinki and London to develop our respective in-house expertise and links with the tech sector to use city data to improve the lives of our citizens. I hope this will act as template for future collaboration between London’s civic tech pioneers and those internationally.”

Helsinki’s Chief Digital Officer, Mikko Rusama, said: “Helsinki’s vision is to be the most functional city in the world that makes the best use of digitalization. Developing our data and AI capabilities and assets are important enablers to this vision. Helsinki has been one of the leading cities in opening up and promoting the use of open data.

“Ethical and transparent use of data and AI will be essential in building trust. We want to collaborate with leading cities like London on common challenges cities are facing. This declaration is a starting point for a deepening collaboration between Helsinki and London.”