April 14, 2015

Guest blog post: Discovering the Benefits of the Real-Time Economy

Jukka Viitasaari

Director, The Federation of Finnish Technology Industries

Thank you to Fredrik Jansson for asking me to participate in this blog challenge on the Real-Time Economy (RTE). Fredrik wants to know my views on the benefits of RTE to enterprises, the public sector and citizens.

You can read more about the challenge here

Just how far has the Nordic conversion to digital gone?

The Digital Barometer report (in Finnish) studies the digitalization of countries, what the nation looks like, how it has changed, and what should be done so there can be improved progress in the future.

According to the latest report, Denmark is the most digitalized country in the world. The top 5 consists of Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands. Estonia was ranked at the world's leading country in the digital public sector and places 2 and 3 went to Norway and Finland.

Even though the situation might look good, there is still a lot of work to do. In order for Nordic countries to really benefit from digitalization, we will have to rethink everything in a new way. Estonia is a good example with their quick economic recovery, their fast development brought them the number one position in the digitalization of the public sector.

Why should Finland embrace the real-time economy?

One of today's greatest problem is that business is constantly harbouring a growing administrative burden. Setting up a business is relatively easy, but the difficulties begin when the company has begun to operate: a variety of regulatory reports are produced each year, even if it is a small micro-enterprise. Bureaucracy and regulation threaten to suffocate the company at an early stage.

Perhaps the best solution to this worsening economic problem can be found in the real-time economy, which can facilitate business activities by automating many things. A concrete example of this is the Estonian-style automated VAT collection.

The cost of benefits, additional income and ease in addition for today's entrepreneurs would help the economy to focus on their core competencies instead. At the same time, we could sell our know-how and experiences to other countries. This will make it easier for the public sector and private businesses to improve productivity, since automated financial management will not require the previous amount of human labor and resources. People will be free to do the tasks that machines are not performing.

Another major social problem of the informal economy occurs in Finland as well as the European crisis countries. A real-time economy could be of significant help in the Finnish underground economy corruption, and the only limit is your imagination. What effect could it have been on, say, the Greek economy? Would it be appropriate to invite the Greek finance minister to visit Finland to listen to a presentation on RTE's opportunities?

How do we move forward?

A transition towards the real-time economy requires agility. We should pursue pilot projects as for example Estonia does.

In fact, I see a future full of possibilities. The housing market could go digital, bank transfers could move with lightning speed from country to country, and Finland could be an international data traffic conduit with a new knowledge-based ecosystems hub. We have all the prerequisites for success plus concrete tools to move forward.

The author is Jukka Viitasaari, someone who will take the Finnish technology field forward. You can find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Viitasaari is a Director in the The Federation of Finnish Technology Industries who is in charge of digitalization and growth. He considers himself a technology optimists and believes in continuous learning, curiosity and in healing power.

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