How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.

I work for the Finnish government in the Embassy of Finland in Singapore, supporting Finnish education organisations, universities and experts to do international cooperation, world-class research and to accomplish leading edge innovations. I can say that the biggest impact I can make is by bringing brilliant people together, to find emerging issues and common agendas.

This year, the work has related a lot to the Covid-19 pandemic and analysing its implications for Finland, Europe and Southeast Asia, but also to conveying best practices and information of how the different countries have coped with the situation. Especially in the situation of school closures and remote learning all over the world, it has been really important to share lessons learnt from this disruption, to make sure education systems cope and take care of children and their right to education the best they can.

What was the most impactful project you worked on this year?

It would have to be a webinar series titled “Future is Made in Finland” we produced this fall. By focusing on transformative technologies such as AI, new generation mobile technologies (6G), photonics, imaging, circular economy, co-creation and design-thinking, we have wanted to put forward the idea that even if we live in uncertain times and with major global challenges, as humans we have the capacity to innovate to change, to make the future. Even if this year it has not always felt like that…

Normally we would host physical events to bring people together, but now we have had to learn to do everything virtually. The idea in the webinar series was to facilitate information exchange, research and education cooperation, but also to promote e.g. study and job opportunities in Finland. Naturally it had a strong country branding element as well for Finland, as we are already well known for education, technology and innovation.  It has been lovely to see thousands of people register and tune in and in that sense get a much more positive feeling about the future, than what this year has sometimes felt like with the Covid-19 hassles.

What is one unexpected learning from 2020?

The Covid-19 pandemic with all the travel restrictions and border controls has deeply made me realize how used to the interconnectedness we have been. For example, being a Finnish citizen, we are used to being able to travel to most countries in the world just with our passport and this we have truly taken for granted. Sometimes the thought that you truly can’t go anywhere feels claustrophobic and shows that for many of us the mindset has been that you can just pick up and go anytime you want. Of course I do hope that also a more sustainable world emerges after the pandemic, but still very much look forward to a bit more normalcy in traveling and connectedness.

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2021?

As the Covid-19 situation will likely still affect 2021 largely, I would like to have more good examples of virtual events and platforms, where true networking and building new connections is possible. Even though the current events are ok for information sharing and even perhaps keeping in touch with existing contacts, we don’t see too many good solutions for building new connections. For that I truly miss physical events, where you can bump into someone interesting while getting your coffee.

 What are your priorities for 2021?

I would personally still like to prioritise more, be more focused and find more impact from the work that I do. To find better ways to engage people, even from a distance. But as the domains and stakeholders I get to work with both in Finland and in Southeast Asia are quite varied, this is not always possible. But one can try.

What advice would you give to women looking to start a career in GovTech?

I would say that women in technology are needed more than even before! We live in an era of artificial intelligence and quantum computing and these technologies will transform our everyday life, our future. Yet the basic rights of women to education, to vote, to control over their bodies, equal pay and full representation in society are still debated in many countries in the world. Most likely the Covid-19 situation will reverse the gender equality development by decades.

Only a minority of people developing these transformative technologies are women – e.g. only 30% of the world’s scientists are women. We need more diversity in technology development in general, as it truly matters who creates these technologies and with that shapes our future. We also need diversity in policy development, guidance and regulation of technology, among other things. Even though we live in 2020, we know that family decisions, financial considerations, workplace cultures and discrimination can shape our careers profoundly, so there remain all kinds of hurdles ahead for women working in science, technology and in working life in general.

So my advice would be to press on and don’t take no for an answer! Our futures depend on it!

Write a message for your future self.

Keep going, keep learning, but spend even more time with family and friends. 🙂