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. We believe that the greatest challenges globally can only be resolved by working together with our partners from around the world. Therefore, we want to be an active participant in the global community, sharing in the responsibilities, offering expertise and helping solve problems.

Technology and research-based innovations play a big role in solving our joint global challenges in climate change, healthcare, clean energy, just to name a few. Finland has top quality higher education and research environments, and we can work together to create even better solutions. For example, in November 2018 we organised a research and innovation seminar in Singapore with the theme of fighting the war on diabetes, which is a topical challenge to both Finland and Singapore. The event brought together top researchers and health technology companies, and we are working to take the cooperation further with concrete research and innovation projects.

My role is to raise awareness of joint challenges and collaboration opportunities, to bring people together and to help enable the leading experts in the world to work their magic.

What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2018?

I just joined the Embassy of Finland in Singapore in October 2018, so the overall introduction to the research, innovation and education scene in Singapore has been truly inspiring. To meet government officials, university experts, colleagues from other countries, as well as enthusiastic educators, entrepreneurs and innovators every day is a true privilege and I learn so much every day. Some days the weight of the world and all our challenges seem overwhelming, but to see what a huge impact education, knowledge and cooperation have in the world every day, the paramount feeling is still the hope and the enthusiasm to do more.

Another thing I have to mention is that for the most part of 2018 I spent at home on maternity leave with our now 1-year-old daughter. I consider that also a huge privilege to be able to spend the first year with her, without the stress of work and other engagements. This is of course courtesy of our fantastic welfare state in Finland and the maternal and paternal leave system that allows parents to focus on the children when they are small. It is amazing how fast the children develop during their first year and it has of course sent us parents on quite the steep learning curve as well.

If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2018, what would it be?

Watching close-by as my daughter takes her first steps, learns new words and skills, I am all the more convinced that we need to have the courage to try and experiment new things. Sometimes we fail and fall, but then we try again, learn and thrive. We need to have the tolerance for failure throughout our lives and learn from our children the endurance, perseverance and enthusiasm for exploration.

”We need to have the tolerance for failure throughout our lives and learn from our children the endurance, perseverance and enthusiasm for exploration.”

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2019?

So much is happening, but as everyone is interested in the development of artificial intelligence, I can mention the new development in Finland to move government services toward the age of AI. In the fall of 2018, the Finnish Ministry of Finance launched a preliminary study on the national artificial intelligence programme called Aurora. The aim of Aurora is to accelerate the transitioning of public administration into the age of artificial intelligence in a secure, ethical manner.

The idea behind Aurora is to make it possible for citizens to access the wide range of services available from different service providers through seamless intelligent services, streamlined to your life events. Hopefully, this development makes our public services even better and more effective.

What are your priorities for 2019?

My priority for 2019 is to learn more about the research and innovation systems in Singapore and Southeast Asia overall and to find the touchpoints where Finland can be of added value. I hope to facilitate cooperation on different platforms, not only for technology development and innovation, but also for education.

What is one skill that has helped you the most throughout the course of your career?

There are many, but as I work with so many different fields and themes – from early childhood education to higher education to various specialised research fields – the ability to learn new things, to master new themes and understand connections has been truly valuable.

Sometimes I call it just-in-time learning as I have to understand a very specific topic at least on a general level for an occasion or an event. This is also something we talk about in Finland more and more. We can’t think of education as a one-off thing in the beginnings of our lives, but we need to constantly learn, re-learn and de-learn and to develop our competencies and skills. It is inspiring, but also demanding.

What advancements do you predict will happen in your field in the next ten years?

In education, I hope we will see more technology that truly brings added value to learning and supports the work of teachers and schools. I don’t think all education will ever be digital, online or AI generated, as human connection and interaction are very valuable for the development of the children, but there is definitely a role to play for better and pedagogically designed tools for learning.

In research, I think we will see remarkable things in technology and innovation during the next ten years. In the Finnish start-up event SLUSH 2018, for example, University of Helsinki researchers were portraying super interesting university spin-off solutions, such as the world’s first bee vaccination, PrimeBEE, to solve the problem of disappearing pollinators and to tackle the looming global food security crisis. There are also many things happening in the circular economy, not to mention all the things happening now in the field of health technology, artificial intelligence, fintech, etc.

Coffee, yoga, music… what powers you through your day?

Normally I get energy from regular sports, especially winter sports like cross-country skiing. But now, living in Singapore and as a mother of a toddler, I think cross-country skiing is not really a realistic option, and time for exercise is scarcer than before.

I will still try to keep exercising and try to find a new sport to try. Overall, I relax by spending time with my family and friends and now especially by exploring new sides and parts of Singapore.