Pre-primary aged children.

Place in pre-primary education offered to everyone by text message in Helsinki in 2021

Helsinki wants to be a city that anticipates the service needs of its residents and offers services regardless of time and place. A step towards this was taken with the experiment in the beginning of the year, where the city offered a place in pre-primary education in two early childhood education areas directly through a text message, without forms or separate applications. The experiment was a success and it will be expanded to cover entire Helsinki in 2021.

A pilot project for the service was carried out in January in Kulosaari, Herttoniemi and Laajasalo and in Malminkartano, Kannelmäki, Hakuninmaa, Maununneva, Kuninkaantammi, Länsi-Pakila and Itä-Pakila and in Maunula, Tuomarinkylä, Torpparinmäki and Oulunkylä. The city sent a text message to the guardians of pre-primary aged children in the area to offer a place in pre-primary education in an establishment that arranges pre-primary education in their own area. It was possible to accept the place with just a reply message.

The service is based on the fact that more than 90 per cent of the age group is already attending the city’s early childhood education and their information is thus in the city’s data system.  This means that the city is in possession of data of where the pre-primary aged children live and of the establishments arranging pre-primary education in their respective areas. Using this data, the services can be brought directly to the residents.

More than four out of five participants of the pilot project accepted the place in pre-primary education offered in the text message

In the pilot project in January, Helsinki sent a text message to 1,058 guardians. 93 per cent of the guardians responded to the message and, eventually, no fewer than 880 families, more than four in five, accepted the places. The rest of the families chose to submit an application concerning the pre-primary education arrangements or to change the place offered to them. The city’s goal is always to offer the traditional service option as well when digital services are implemented.

“The city’s digital services are being developed, because we want to make the everyday life easier for the Helsinki residents and anticipate the service needs of the residents. Proactive services save both time and effort for the residents. A place in pre-primary education by means of a text message is a great and concrete measure towards these objectives”, notes Mayor Jan Vapaavuori.

Service without filling in forms and making calls

Digital services are used to facilitate the lives of the Helsinki residents. For example, in this case, there are no forms to fill in and no phone calls to pre-primary schools are needed. Offering places in pre-primary education 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. What needs to be noted is that despite the automation, the proactive offering of a place in pre-primary education does not oblige the guardian to accept the place offered, as it can be changed by applying for it by the traditional means. This is how the new digital Helsinki works, and using the same technology, it may also be possible to replace other manual applications to the City services.

“The most functional city in the world is able to anticipate the residents’ need for information or services. Why would we force people to fill in forms if the need for statutory services can be anticipated and we are in possession of the data needed for offering the service or the information? In the Digitalisation Programme, the place in pre-primary education by text message is one of the key projects, whose pilot phase was a great success. Scaling this functional model will help the everyday lives of thousands of families”, says Helsinki's chief digital officer Mikko Rusama.

Using the Helsinki Digitalisation Programme as a means, the city intends to develop services that anticipate the needs of the Helsinki residents and meet their requirements in an increasingly individual manner. The technical implementation of the pre-primary pilot project is based on BookIT Finland Ltd’s text message solution. More information on the service that is expanding to the entire city will be provided in autumn 2020.

Picture: Patrik Lindström.