How can the government promote a digital Finland?
Finland consistently ranks as a leader in the digital world. In order for us to remain at the top, our new government should consider a more target-driven approach to accelerating digital development. Although the majority of digital development takes place in companies, society plays a key role as an enabler of digitalisation and in creating the prerequisites for digitalisation.
Developing the regulatory environment to encourage more innovation and investments is one of the key methods of accelerating digital development. One potential example of an area for development is the harmonisation of the countless permit and payment practices used in Finnish municipalities and cities. Different practices often obstruct or at least slow down the construction of digital infrastructure, or boost the costs until they are so high that ordinary citizens cannot afford new services. A solution to the problem could be harmonised permit and construction procedures determined by the state, and a transition to the notification procedure.
Industry companies are often criticised for their unwillingness to invest in new services. On the other hand, according to the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, low demand poses an obstacle to an increase in more rapid, fixed connections, for example. This is because of the good price-quality ratio of alternative services as well as the excessive cost load caused by the aforementioned regulatory environment. The solution is not harnessing state-owned companies or municipalities to compete against commercial actors, but rather an active approach to deconstructing norms and technological neutrality when implementing services. There is also the need for procedures to increase demand by accelerating the digitalisation and supply of public services and processes.
The roles of public administration and private sector must be clearly defined. The state and municipalities must enable activities and companies must implement them.
Investments must also be made in promoting digital services. Public administrative competence relating to IT procurements must be developed, and an obligation to divide competitive bidding into smaller parts to accelerate service competition should be written in to the Act on Public Procurement and Concession Contracts more strictly. The excise duty on electricity must be lowered to a competitive level in order to attract international data centre operators to Finland. At the same time, domestic service production should be promoted by combining the consumption of dispersed service production, thereby allowing access to the reduced excise duty on electricity. VAT on digital services must be lowered to increase service demand. Privacy protection and the confidentiality of online communications are the basis of digital business operations, but data utilisation must be made possible in order to encourage service innovations.
Excellence in the ICT industry will be of critical importance in the future as digitalisation progresses. Investments in increasing education, research and product development are required to ensure competence. More investment in training those already in working life is also required in order to facilitate transition to industries which lack skilled workers. In order for us to ensure our national competitive ability, Finland must also allow for the smoothest possible immigration by highly skilled foreign workers without unnecessary bureaucracy.