Германия · Финландия

Sex shop discounts and Big data: Finland’s example in digitizing student services

So I came again to Finland, this time for an exchange year at its interdisciplinary forerunner university – Aalto. When I started using the web portal to register for lectures, I had to go through a short questionnaire. Coming from oh-so-concerned-about-data Germany, I rose eyebrows at the question if I’d allow information about the lectures I visited including my grades to be forwarded to third parties including recruiters. How little I knew about the infrastructure behind it at that point…

An illustration of the different approach towards digitalization between Finland and Germany are the student cards. Back in the days at the University of Frankfurt, I had a plastic card identifying both that I am a student and that I can travel anywhere in the Bundesland of Hessen. I could re-validate it every semester at a machine on the university campus which requires me to go there personally. At TU Berlin, I got a plastic card too and they would send me a sticker via post to prove that I am still a student but for double identification maybe?, I had to print and carry with me another piece of paper saying that I am a student. In Finland you can forget about all that – there is an app for proving that you are a student called frank. Alternatively, you can also purchase a plastic card for 16 Euro. What does the app do besides proving that you are a student? Discounts, of course. And among the discounts, there is plenty of the usual stuff – cinema, museums, gym. But also restaurants, bars, clubs…and surprisingly, even the two biggest sex shops. Transport card is yet still on paper and requires a personal visit to an HSL center to buy it. But this is about to change in the next one year.

Because Koski, the national study credit, degree, and qualification disclosure service of Finland, is about to be implemented until the end of 2019, as I learned during the MyData conference.  The service is a project between the Finnish National Agency for Education, Population Register Centre, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Education and Culture. The goal of the register is to store all the data in one data warehouse, make the diplomas and certificates available in electronic form, allow quick sharing information to officials as well as real-time information for decision-makers. A glimpse of the information is available at the Pulse of Koski. Third parties which are using the service are frank, the social insurance institution KELA, the student housing organization HOAS, the transport service of Helsinki HSL. Which means that being a student here will let you manage both housing, transportation and other everyday things way easier, faster and environment-friendly in the future.

Coming from the bureaucratic paradise of Germany and not even trying to understand the bureaucratic hell of Bulgaria, I find this project very interesting and a right step towards a paperless future. I have to acknowledge the psychological factor of trust in institutions which is very high in Finland. But German’s trust in decentralized systems isn’t making life there easier either.

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