Paula Parviainen, Ambassador, Embassy of Finland in Singapore

By Apala Bhattacharya

Women in GovTech 2018 Special Report.

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

I am the Ambassador of Finland in Singapore since 2015. The Embassy offers citizen services to the 1,000 Finnish citizens living in Singapore. This is mostly taken care of by our consular team. My role is to build bridges between Finland and Singapore so that the Finnish offering is better known in Singapore and to create more exchanges on business and trade, investments, education and tourism between our countries. I use social media channels to open up the work the embassy does to the wider public and also to tell them about Finland. Different channels are good for different kind of messages to different audiences.

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

In 2017, when Finland celebrated its 100th Anniversary of Independence from Russia, the Finnish community in Singapore organised more than 100 events to build those bridges. The main areas were health technologies, education, innovations and start ups and service design.

In 2018, we have continued to deepen our relations with Singapore in those areas, and are adding circular economy as a new collaboration theme - now that the time seems to be ripe for a circular economy in Singapore.

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2019?

I am planning to do an online training course, called Elements of AI, to better understand how machine learning and AI are going to change our world. This course is designed by the Finnish company REAKTOR together with the University of Helsinki and is offered free to all citizens. By now, in Finland, more than 25,000 people have graduated from the course and the President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, who himself has also done the course, made a graduation speech to the students.
“I am planning to do an online training course, called Elements of AI, to better understand how machine learning and AI are going to change our world.”
What are your priorities for 2019?

I will be concluding my tour of duty as ambassador in Singapore end of May 2019 and returning to Finland. Finland will be having the EU presidency as of 1st July. After having served in China and Singapore, I hope to be able to bring some of the Asian dynamism to Finland and continue the good collaborations and learning from the Singapore experience.

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

Language skills are something that you can never have enough of. In Finland, we have to study 3-4 languages because Finnish and Swedish, our national languages, are only spoken in our part of the world. With language studies come the cultural understanding which is equally relevant and varies from country to country.

Our education system in Finland takes the “learning to learn” approach, and this is relevant throughout life, especially in our times of information overflow and technological dominance. People skills are equally important.

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

Diplomacy has changed during the past ten years and the role of a diplomat is more that of a connector than reporter. I expect the change to continue. Diplomacy will always be needed, in the more and more complex world.

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

I get energy from meeting people and getting to know them, which is part of my work. But now after almost eight years away from Finland, I miss the change of seasons, the closeness to pure nature, with all the possibilities it brings like hiking and cross country skiing and swimming in the open waters. In the meantime, yoga and pilates keep me going.