March 9, 2018

Will a human-centric, data-driven approach shape a smarter society?

Anne Räsänen

VP, Head of Public, Healthcare and Welfare, Finland, Tieto

Data has often been termed the new oil, but unlike its fossil counterpart, the amount of data that is generated today is virtually inexhaustible. The opportunity that lies therein, to shape a smarter, more advanced society is unprecedented in human history.

Billions of gigabytes of data are generated every day, ranging from different sources such as your social media activity, to information gathered by sensors, and even details collected by governments from its citizens. Market Intelligence firm IDC expects this to rise even further, growing ten-fold by 2025. The confluence of technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), IoT and cloud computing can help unlock this data to the benefit of governments, businesses and citizens, alike.

A data-driven approach for efficiency

Let’s take Finland, a strong social welfare state, as an example. The country has a long history of recording and storing digital data on its healthcare and social welfare sectors. It is estimated that 10% of the Finnish healthcare population pays for about 80% of the healthcare budget, a trend seen in the other Nordics as well. Using a data-driven approach here can result in immense gains, leading to a smarter society.

There are a number of applications that come to mind. For instance, data models can be created to determine which section of the population is at risk of being welfare-dependant. This data can be cross-referenced with data from different government departments to ensure that social benefits reach the right person. The data model can also be used to determine which groups are most at risk of being welfare-dependant, thus allowing the government to provide them with training, resources and additional support to improve their quality of life and reduce their risk of being welfare dependant.

In the future, this data (that has so far been in silos) will be shared, allowing government departments to shed its bureaucratic ways and work more closely than ever before. We fully expect to see a more agile and beneficial health and social welfare system coming up over the next decade.

Putting people first

For this kind of data-driven approach to succeed, a human-centric approach is paramount. The first step is to understand from the end-users (citizens) what they need, how they want services to be distributed and also what they do not want. Where most governments and organizations go wrong is in devising solutions without taking the human factor into account, resulting in innovation that may not deliver what is needed.

The second step is to focus on security. People are concerned about the privacy of their data and rightly so. After all, they own the data and all we are doing is helping them realize its potential. For data-driven applications to truly succeed, we must make sure that it is secure and that citizens will have full control over it. Tieto is already working on several ways to provide enhanced security including using Blockchain to reinforce trust in society and eliminate the middleman. 

The third step is to provide access. A human-centric, data-driven system must be a federated and distributed system. One where citizens can rest confidently knowing that they own the data and that they can specify what it is to be used for. We envisage a platform where citizens will be able to see what kind of data has been collected on them. This will have options allowing them to opt into various services with this data, and also clearly define how long it can be used and why.

Towards a smarter society

While governments in the USA and Canada are looking at similar initiatives, but the Nordic governments are well-placed to lead this approach thanks to its experience with social welfare. We expect this human-centric, data-driven approach to be of interest to other European countries considering attempts by the European Union (EU) to establish a pan-European healthcare market. A similar system is being explored for tax linkages as well.

Tieto is already working with HUS, the biggest hospital district in Helsinki, providing data-analysis to improve its networks. The learnings are being incorporated elsewhere in Finland and even abroad.

So, what will all of this lead to? We foresee an agile and flexible world where people will be able to enjoy all the benefits of living in a smarter society. One, where mammoth amounts of data will be analyzed through IoT-enabled devices. AI-driven platforms will analyze this data and then efficiently disburse various services, allowing citizens to access them using cloud-based systems.

What does a smarter society mean?

Tieto’s goal is to utilize our expertise in digitalization to continue shaping a smarter society, one which anticipates the needs of the people in every phase of their lives. For more insights and examples on how we are doing this, visit

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