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In 2019, Helsinki launched an ambitious digitalisation programme, which enables the city to improve its services and modernise its activities in many ways. The changes relate not only to new technologies but also to the culture of development, organisation, leadership and staff competence.

Helsinki wants to be more customer-oriented and agile in its activities and to use data in its services and decisions. Digitalisation can contribute to the SDGs in many ways and offer new solutions and opportunities for people to participate.

On the other hand, digitalisation can also increase inequalities. Digital exclusion has been identified as a growing problem. Social exclusion and lack of participation can befall people of all ages. The COVID-19 pandemic strongly highlighted the danger of the elderly becoming digitally excluded. When local services turned into remote services and everything had to be handled online, a significant proportion of the elderly were deprived of the opportunity to participate even in the management of their own life.

Investment in accessibility

Helsinki has invested heavily in increasing digital skills and improving the quality of digital services, so that everyone has equal access to them. However, more efforts are needed, especially for the elderly, and attention must also be paid to the availability of equipment for all age groups.

Accessibility is also an important aspect. Accessible digital services are easy to use for all users, including the elderly and people with various disabilities. Once accessibility is taken into account, as many people as possible can use digital services independently.

In terms of the accessibility of digital services, Helsinki aims to reach at least the AA level specified in the WCAG guidelines. After the transitional period, an accessibility statement will be available in each of the city’s digital services. The statement describes how well the website or application meets the accessibility requirements and how accessibility feedback can be provided to the city or supervisory authority.

Residents have the opportunity to control the personal data collected

Helsinki has been one of the world’s most active cities in opening its data. Open data can be used in, for example, research or creating new services. With open data and interfaces, services can also be innovated by companies and communities instead of the city inventing and producing everything itself.

The city defines ethical principles for the use of data and artificial intelligence. It is important that everyone knows what kind of information Helsinki has about them and can influence how the city uses it. Helsinki uses the data responsibly with the permission of the city residents and for the benefit of the city residents.

Helsinki wishes to develop its MyData capabilities. MyData is a principle of personal data management according to which people must be able to control, use and pass on the personal data collected about them.

MyData capabilities pave the way for a fair, sustainable and prosperous digital society in which the sharing and utilisation of personal data is based on a confidential relationship between people and organisations. Using data in a smart way also enables the city to provide the city residents with personalised and targeted services more efficiently and proactively when they need them. To promote these goals, Helsinki has joined the international MyData Global network.