October 13, 2014

Guest blog post: Helsinki enters the next phase of urban development

Markku Raitio

Head of Unit, City of Helsinki

This is the second blog post to our blog challenge commenced by our CIO Kim Lindgren. Markku Raitio is the Head of Unit at City of Helsinki.

Thanks for Kim Lindgren for this great chance to answer to your question: How does your company balance between running a basic IT infrastructure and the constant development and adaptation of new technologies? What sort of choices do you have to make?

The digital transformation is something that all organisations are experiencing at the moment. It has been discussed in this blog by many people already. It is something we have also faced here at Helsinki City. The digital transformation pressures us to think in a new way.

I like to think that challenges are opportunities. We are now already starting to see some of the benefits of these changes. With digitalization, I think we can create better services for citizens and the ecosystem. We can work with people, collect feedback, and test services faster and help developers to create better world-class services.

To answer to Kim’s question, I will divide my response into three different perspectives:
1) IT needs to be efficient and skillfully updated. My role in Helsinki is to make sure this is happening.
2) The city organization needs to ensure efficiency and delivery. Services need to collaborate together. People also need to collaborate across institutions and bureaus.
3) The current trend in urban development is citizen participation, interaction and initiatives that strengthen the feeling of community.

In this blog post, I would like to focus on my latest topic about empowering citizens and the new type of ecosystem thinking we need to implement.

We have opened data access to the public so they can utilise it how they want and create new services. The ones that are great will fly. Good examples are services for users of public transport. Ahjo Explorer is another one, which opens the decision-making data in user-friendly form to the public via a smart phone.

This means that we need to cater the digital environment by making sure people can innovate, execute their ideas, and show the services to new customers.

We are trying to build a better city in the digital age. We want to be more transparent. We actively collect feedback, let people build services with our APIs, and create environments to quickly test services. Some of the examples are:

  • The Helsinki Region Infoshare (HRI) service aims to make regional information quickly and easily accessible to all. Essentially, HRI is a web service for fast and easy access to open data sources between the cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen.
  • Helsinki’s Kalasatama area is being built into a world class model district of smart urban development. The area is developed through agile piloting and the use of ICT technology and data. Fiksu Kalasatama ("Smart" Kalasatama) grows from the collaboration between the city, companies, and its residents. The aim is to inspire residential participation and create new business and innovations.

One thing I want to highlight is that in the Nordic people are very skilled. We have a lot of people who have a technical background. Also, the startup culture and entrepreneurship attitude is very good at the moment. The mobile industry is growing and services need to be mobile. We have a lot of great talent here in Finland. I believe we definitely have enough people to make great things. So, let’s build our future services together.

Markku Raitio is the Head of Unit at City of Helsinki.

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