Nº 4 2011 > Country focus

Digital Finland

Finns dream of their country's lakes and forests, but the view from the rest of the world is of a high-performing digital economy. This year alone has seen this digital excellence heaped with awards and praise.

Digital FinlandDigital FinlandDigital Finland

How does Finland do it? Perhaps one answer is that in Finland innovative thinking is inextricably linked with social responsibility, whether in bringing broadband to every citizen or in finding effective ways to protect the environment. And governmental support is far-sighted, setting regulatory incentives and funding basic research. This article highlights some of the examples of Finland’s digital prowess.

The digital agenda for 2011–2020

“Finland has worked hard to develop an equitable and inclusive information society. We were the first country in the world to ensure — by legislation — that all our citizens have the opportunity to use digital services — irrespective of their place of residence, whether in the city or the countryside, or the level of their income,” said President Tarja Halonen of Finland. “Already now, a good and reasonably priced Internet connection is everyone’s right in Finland,” she added.

Digitization and the development of the information society play a key role in sustaining Finnish well-being and increasing productivity. Efficient use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in different sectors of society leads to increased productivity.

A government report entitled “Productive and innovative Finland — digital agenda for the years 2011–2020”, submitted to Parliament in November 2010, defines future objectives for the development of the information society, along with the measures necessary to achieve them.

Key objectives include the opening up of access to public data and its efficient use, promoting user-oriented service development, securing the position of ageing people as active citizens, and promoting sustainable development by adopting new technologies.

Having been the first country in the world to define a 1-Mbit Internet connection as a universal service, the next objective is to make 100-Mbit broadband connections available to virtually all permanent residences, business premises and public administration offices by the end of 2015.

Content and services play a major role in the development of digital Finland. The report recognizes that services need to be user-friendly and secure, and designed to meet the needs of everyday life. Aspects such as multilingual versions of services and their accessibility need to be considered early on at the planning stage. The needs of people and society provide the starting point for service development.

Finland’s Minister of Communications, Suvi Lindén says that “in addition to high-speed connections, the availability of user-friendly services and information is important — it lays down the foundation for genuine information society development.” Ms Lindén is a Commissioner of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, established in May 2010 by ITU and UNESCO.

Awards and praise

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual rankings put Finland among the world’s leading countries for using ICT for economic and social benefit. Finland is ranked fourth in the 2011 assessment, up from tenth in 2009.

Finland is singled out for enshrining Internet access as a basic human right and for its high level use of radio-frequency identification (RFID). Finnish companies are among the world’s earliest adopters of RFID technology, with an 8 per cent use rate compared to an average of 3 per cent in the 27 countries of the European Union. Finland also scored highly for its business and legal environment, consumer and business adoption, and social and cultural environment.

Angry Birds wins the coveted Best Mobile App award

The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona announced on 15 February 2011 that the hugely popular mobile game Angry Birds, developed by the Finnish company Rovio, has won two major prizes. Angry Birds won the coveted Best Mobile App award. According to the jury, “This is an application that is simple, intuitive, incredibly addictive, and perfect for ‘snacking’ consumption. It has underlined the importance of the applications market, and helped raise the credibility of small independent developers outside the mainstream.” Angry Birds also won the App of the Year on the Apple Platform. “This is the 50 million plus-selling app that catapulted the benchmark for mobile gaming higher than ever — it is innovative too in terms of in-application monetization,” commented the judges.

Following a string of successful game launches in 2010, Finland is now one of the leading game-developer countries in the world. Finnish companies sold more than a million games in 2010, according to KooPee Hiltunen, Director of Neogames, the Finnish national centre of game business research and education.

 The digital distribution of games will create further opportunities for game developers. In the future, games and simulations may become part of school learning environments and corporate training methods. The Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes) supports research and development projects in the Finnish gaming industry, encouraging growth and internationalization of the sector.

Technology innovation

Nokia Siemens Networks has won an award for its next-generation optical access (NGOA) technology, which uses a single optical fibre to bring broadband to up to 1000 homes at speeds of one gigabit per second per household. This rate is valid for both uploading and downloading at distances of up to 100 km from the central exchange. Nokia Siemens Networks, headquartered in Espoo, has demonstrated the approach in its research labs and is already developing a prototype. The technology innovation award was presented at the 2011 Fiber to the Home (FTTH) Conference by the FTTH Council Europe — an industry organization that is determined to speed up the availability of fibre-based, ultra high-speed access networks to consumers and businesses.

“Nokia Siemens Networks’ NGOA will allow operators to provide virtually unlimited bandwidth in their connectivity networks,” said Alexander Niepel, Head of NGOA business development at Nokia Siemens Networks. “It is not about fibre-to-the-home applications alone. NGOA has the ability to transform business and enterprise connectivity,” he added. NGOA is designed to coexist with passive optical networks (PON) systems, allowing for a seamless upgrade from current optical connectivity systems. Nokia Siemens Networks is also working closely with the Full Service Access Network (FSAN), the body looking into future optical connectivity standards.

Recycling server wins Green ICT competition

A recycling server developed by Aalto University’s research group for environmental technology has won Finland’s Green ICT competition. This competition is organized by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes) and the Finnish Federation for Communications and Teleinformatics (FiCom) to promote innovative ideas that not only improve quality of life and of the environment, but also create new business activities. The recycling server produces data on the volume and type of waste produced in a residential building. By providing guidance for recycling, the recycling server reduces the cost of refuse services and helps prevent the creation of waste. The volume of different types of waste — such as biowaste, paper, cardboard, glass and metal — can be monitored in the same way as water or energy consumption is measured. The server tracks waste accumulation and collection in real time. Refuse collection companies can use the service for planning and invoicing based on weight. A basic model of the recycling server will be developed and tested in several pilot areas.

While general information is available to everyone on the Internet, property-specific data can be seen only by residents and housing companies.

Joint initiatives to keep our planet green and to promote 3D Internet

Energy-efficient datacentres

A joint project between Finland’s ICT sector and Motiva, a government agency promoting efficient and sustainable use of energy and materials, aims to reduce the total consumption of electricity by datacentres despite the increasing number of servers. Motiva estimates that datacentres account for about 0.5 to 1.5 per cent of total electricity consumption in Finland.

Launched in autumn 2010, the project is examining the current state of energy efficiency in Finnish datacentres and the possibilities for improving their performance. Finland has already improved datacentre infrastructure and management in various ways, including by minimizing the amount of electricity used by servers and locating datacentres near cooling waterways, as well as by capturing the heat generated by datacentres and feeding it into district heating networks.

In November 2011, the project will publish guidelines for monitoring the energy use of datacentres, and recommend indicators for use in measuring energy efficiency. The project will also examine the possibilities offered by Finland’s climate to create energy-efficient cooling.

Research on environmental monitoring

A research programme on environmental monitoring and services has been launched by the Finnish Strategic Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation for Energy and Environment (CLEEN Oy). The programme will create new tools, standards and methods for environmental measurement, monitoring and decision-making. It will promote new applications and services based on environmental data to improve the energy and material efficiency of infrastructures and industrial processes.

The programme has five-year funding of EUR 50 million provided jointly by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes) and the 45 Finnish companies and research institutes that are involved.

Collaboration between the private sector and academia

Intel and Nokia have established their first collaborative research laboratory, the Intel and Nokia Joint Innovation Center, at the University of Oulu Center for Internet Excellence. Research activities started in August 2010, with a project on using graphical 3D technology to create immersive mobile interfaces.

The laboratory will focus on leveraging the rapidly increasing processing and graphics power of mobile devices to create new and compelling Internet user experiences. “The University of Oulu’s focus on future telecommunication solutions as well as electronics and photonics made it the perfect location for the Intel and Nokia Joint Innovation Center,” said Justin Rattner, Intel Chief Technology Officer and Director of Intel Labs.

Intel and Nokia believe that 3D Internet has the potential to become the next major breakthrough in mobile user experience. The Oulu region hosts a strong 3D Internet development community, and technologies such as the open-source virtual reality platform realXtend have been created as a result of research in Oulu. “3D technology could change the way we use our mobile devices and make our experiences with them much more immersive. Our new joint laboratory with Intel draws on the Oulu research community’s 3D interface expertise, and over time will lay down some important foundations for future mobile experiences,” said Rich Green, Senior Vice President and Chief Technical Officer of Nokia.

Salo — Birthplace of Nokia

Salo is the birthplace of Nokia Mobile Phones and home to Nokia Plc. The Nokia Salo site is a hotbed of research and development, preproduction and manufacturing, and is one of the world’s most modern centres for wireless terminal devices.

Known today for high-level technology expertise, Salo has attracted companies specializing in wireless communication. Nokia’s success in “connecting people” has stimulated investment by international companies and drawn a huge number of high skilled ICT-professionals to the area. The extensive research and development activities in Salo have created a strongly innovative environment.

TeliaSonera Finland is now the major telecommunications operator in the country offering DSL services. The operator has also been offering ADSL services through its brand Auria. In addition to fixed broadband, TeliaSonera offers mobile broadband and telephony services.The other two largest telecom operators with their own networks are Elisa and DNA, offering fixed and mobile services. In addition to these, around 25 regional telecom operators formed the Finnet group, with each of these companies owning a fixed network in their respective region. The Finnet group of companies do not have their own mobile networks, but many offer retail mobile services as mobile virtual network operators. Other major players that own their own fixed networks include AinaCom and TDC, both of which offer mobile services. The largest mobile operators with their own networks are DNA, Elisa and TeliaSonera.

A particular feature of the broadband market was the increase in the number of mobile broadband subscribers coupled with a decline in the number of fixed broadband subscribers. Finland is a digital pioneer, so this may be a trend to watch.


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