Friday, 29 October 2010

eGovernment progress in Finland – How about foreigners?

Among the planned actions of the Digital Agenda for Europe 2010-2020 you find the so called VII Pillar: ICT for Social Challenges. Better public services are among these objectives (eGovernment).

One of the benefits of the European Union is that it fosters interaction and mutual learning between the European and national levels and between the public administrations of the member states.


Upgraded eGovernment portal

The upgraded eGovernment portal in Finland may be of interest in other EU member states. The description is detailed enough to give an inkling of what can be found at the same web address: One-stop public administration services online: Ministry of Finance and State Treasury announce launch of upgraded citizens' portal Suomi.fi (press release 27.10.2010, 134/2010).

The speech of the minister of public administration and local government, Tapani Tölli, at the launch event adds some background information about the improvement of public services and the development of electronic services, but the speech is available only in Finnish.

Even more than before, Suomi.fi is the web portal for practically all public sector information for individuals in Finland. Suomi.fi is described as a one-stop service for citizens, which links you to both national and local level public services, as well as many services produced by NGOs. (Services for businesses have their own portal.)


Foreigners in Finland

On my blogs, I have been looking at information and services for mobile EU citizens, expatriates and immigrants in Finland, especially with regard to work and business.

Now is the time to glance at the Suomi.fi portal from the perspective of foreigners. In addition to the Finnish and Swedish versions, there is a fairly complete Suomi.fi service in English, as well as some information in a dozen more languages.

The English first page offers you links to e-services, services by topic, a service map promised by the end of 2010, state and local government (individual municipalities), and a Newsroom with public sector news.

The services have been collected under broad headings: housing and construction, families and social services, health and nutrition, law and legal protection, public safety and order, transport and travel, migration, teaching and education, library and information services, culture and communications, work and pensions, taxation and financing, nature and the environment, and sports and outdoor activities.

E-services for individuals are increasingly popular. There is no legal obligation to provide services in English, but in a pragmatic way public authorities are improving the offer of information and services. The most popular English e-service right now is the electronic form you use when you apply for council housing in the capital Helsinki.

If you are looking for information or services for people (individuals) in Finland, Suomi.fi is where you should start.


A match made on Earth

Even if information and services in English are developing, they expand and improve the offer according to the abilities of the public administrations and public officials who produce them. However, major first languages among immigrants are Russian, Estonian, Somali and Arabic, so the match between demand and offer is not necessarily ideal.

If not a match made in Heaven, bad English may still be better than no language in common.




Ralf Grahn



P.S. Newsroom Finland offers you an opportunity to find the latest news from Finland (the Finnish News Agency STT), about Finland from international media, as well as news and articles from a few selected sources in English (the broadcasting company YLE, Helsingin Sanomat International Edition, Helsinki Times).