Children in preschool.

Preschool place with one SMS message in Helsinki

In the future, Helsinki will offer children nearing the preschool age, and their guardian, a preschool place without an application. Forms to fill? Zero. Calls to the day-care centre? Zero. Henceforth, the guardian will receive an SMS message from the City and the place can be accepted by answering it. This is how the new digital Helsinki works.

More than 90 per cent of the preschool-aged children (6 yrs.) are already participating in the City’s early childhood education and their data is thus in the City’s data system. Utilisation of the data that the City holds makes it possible to carry out the experiment starting on 7 January, where a preschool place is offered to the child and their guardian without a separate application. In practice, this means that the guardian of a preschool-aged child receives an offer of a suitable preschool place through an SMS message. 

Accepting a preschool place with an SMS message tested in two early childhood education areas

Helsinki wants to be the most functional city in the world and the city in the world that best capitalises on digitalisation. Functionality means that the City is able to anticipate the service needs of its residents. The objective is to make everyday life smoother for the residents of Helsinki.

The proactive offering of a preschool place is tested in January 2020 in two early childhood education areas in different parts of Helsinki. The neighbourhoods that make up the early childhood education areas are Kulosaari, Herttoniemi and Laajasalo and Malminkartano, Kannelmäki, Hakuninmaa, Maununneva, Kuninkaantammi and Länsi-Pakila, Itä-Pakila and Maunula, Tuomarinkylä, Torpparinmäki and Oulunkylä. A preschool place is offered to guardians whose home address is located in the pilot project areas mentioned above. The pilot applies only to presechool education in Finnish.

If the experiment is successful, then the objective is to offer a preschool place proactively in all of Helsinki’s early childhood education areas. Using the same technology, it may also be possible to replace other manual applications, such as the application for a school place.

The tested arrangement 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 paper 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. If they do not want to accept the place being offered, then they can dismiss the offer with an SMS message and apply for another place by filling in an electronic application form in the City's e-services portal. 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 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. BookIT Finland Ltd sends out the preschool offers to the guardians through their text message application on 7 January 2020.

An illustration of the text message in Finnish sent to the customer with the preschool place offer for the child.