AuroraAI: Finland's National Artificial Intelligence Program

Finland launches its AuroraAI National Artificial Intelligence program. AuroraAI will be fully available in 2022.
Susan Fourtané

The promise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer a concept taken from science fiction. Businesses around the world are taking advantage of AI and automation, moving the enterprise right at the center of digital business transformation.

Similarly, Government AI is not just a trend but a response from governments around the globe to the current state of Artificial Intelligence evolution, societal implications, enterprise disruption, and industry adoption.

National Artificial Intelligence strategies are a response to the need that urges governments to remain in sync with strategic technology trends that have been emerging in recent years, technology trends that are shaping the way we live, socialize, work, and educate the future generations.

Finland, technology, and AI

Despite being a small nation of 5.5 million inhabitants, geographically located far up in the Nordics, bordering with the Polar Arctic Circle, Finland's citizens are internationally renowned for being early adopters of new technologies. Almost everyone knows Finland is home for Nokia, Linux, Santa Claus, and Angry Birds.

angry birds
Angry Birds playroom in Stockmann, Helsinki. The Angry Birds game, was created by Rovio Entertainment and released in 2009 in the newly established AppStore. The Birds continue to enjoy a healthy life in the games and film industries. Angry Birds celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2019, Source: Susan Fourtané 

But Finland is also known for its strong technology sector, strong technology startup scene, high standards in education, and for pushing education into all levels. Even the top 15 Artificial Intelligence companies in Finland were listed by Finland's AI Accelerator.

Finland developed Elements of AI, a free Artificial Intelligence six-week-long course first developed for all the citizens and residents in Finland. Later on, the nation translated the course into several European Union languages making it available and open for anyone in the world to use for free. Finland believes education should be available to everyone.

With the Elements of AI initiative, Finland aims to encourage people to learn the basics of Artificial Intelligence, regardless of age, geographical location, or education level. As a nation with high standards in education, Finland acknowledges the importance of AI and hopes to help everyone learn and understand a topic that is going to soon become an essential skill globally, and will be part of in any school curricula.

AuroraAI: Planning Finland's National Artificial Intelligence Program

Planning AuroraAI: Finland's National Artificial Intelligence Program began in May 2017, when the Minister of Economic Affairs, Mika Lintilä, set a goal of making Finland one of the world's top countries in Artificial Intelligence applications.

Mika Lintilä appointed a team to work on a proposal for Finland's AI Program. As the work progressed, the following reports on the initiative were published: Finland’s Age of Artificial Intelligence (2017) and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (2018). 

Finland's Age of Artificial Intelligence: Turning Finland into a leading country in the application of Artificial Intelligence

AI doctor at work
The robot doctor is examining the human at the clinic. The future diagnosis of a heart problem through holograms and Augmented Reality, Source: Devrimb/iStock 

Contrary to common thought, Artificial Intelligence is not a recent development. Artificial Intelligence has been developed and used since the 1950s. IBM was the leader in the field back then, and the company remains as one of the leaders throughout its efforts around IBM Watson and AI-based cognitive services. 

However, it was not until the most recently rapid global developments coupled with successful applications for everyday use that the Artificial Intelligence technology has shown concrete proof of the opportunities it offers. 

Over the next few years, it is believed that Artificial Intelligence will revolutionize transport, industry, healthcare, education, cities, and working life. Finland has excellent opportunities to be among the leaders in this important transformational space. 

The final report of Finland's Artificial Intelligence Program states that "taking Finland into the age of Artificial Intelligence (AI) calls for continuous capacity building, public discussion on the ethics of AI, as well as bold choices and investment." As one concrete step, the report recommends investment in use of data and AI, especially in business to business (B2B) markets in which Finland already has strong leading expertise.

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The current level of utilizing AI varies between businesses and sectors. Those organizations that are more advanced in digitalization are advanced also in AI applications. For the past years, Data has become the most valuable resource in the world. 

Data utilization and competition in business to business (B2B) activities are in the first stages of development if we compare it to the business to consumer (B2C) sector, which is dominated by international giants in the Platform Economy. This entails an opportunity for Finland: AI suitable for B2B is under development, and in this area, the Finnish AI research is among the best in the world.

According to Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä, “Finland is one of the nations that can be among the first to find solutions, benefit from this development, and strengthen the wellbeing of its citizens. The key issue is to ensure that all Finns are involved in the change. As the contents of work change, we need to make sure that Finns can rely on their knowledge and skills in the labour market.” 

“Finland has strong expertise in B2B activities. Small Data and AI technologies such as unsupervised learning can bring Finland to the top of the B2B markets,” says Pekka Ala-Pietilä, Chairman of the AI Finland Program and Chairman of the EU High-Level Expert Group on AI.

According to the report, in order to build an attractive and competitive Finland, it is paramount that both the public and private sectors work closely together in order to promote the digitalization of businesses and utilization of Artificial Intelligence.

This, in turn, will increase investments in innovation activities, build effective cooperation models, develop encouraging regulation, and support the expertise of the business world and the development of capabilities on a broad basis.

The report suggests that this is going to demand hiring top experts in Artificial Intelligence, as well as an increase in the overall skills throughout the organization, including management. Examining the possibility of granting a training voucher or creating a career account for every person of working age is what the report suggests. This would create an effective adult education market in Finland.

The report covers eleven different key topics with recommended guidelines on how to utilize AI in Finland. In addition, it presents a vision of Finland in the age of AI in 2025 and toward the vision 2030: A nation that is attractive and competitive, and that is inhabited by informed and independent citizens with relevant education. 

Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence: Four perspectives on the economy, employment, skills, and ethics

work in the age of ai
Engineers in modern glass office using modern computer with Transparent Holographic Display (THD). Monitor shows user Neural Network Architecture Visualization, Source: gorodenkoff/iStock 

Artificial intelligence can dramatically improve the efficiencies of the workplaces and can augment the work humans can do. 

Finland envisions work in the age of AI in a way that work and society are positively impacted by the following four perspectives

  • The effects of Artificial Intelligence on general economic and employment trends

  • The transformation of work and the labour market

  • Reforms on education and skills maintenance

  • Ethics in AI  

As a general-purpose technology, Artificial Intelligence has the potential to change working life and society extensively. Businesses can experience new growth and productivity contributing to higher standards of living for citizens and the society.

To reach this level, society must invest in upgrading and updating workers' skills. The incorporation of autonomous urban mobility will facilitate workforce mobility. Other future innovations will complement human labor. 

AuroraAI: Finland's National Artificial Intelligence Program is rolled out, and will be fully available in 2022

AuroraAI, Source: slavemotion/iStock

The Finnish Ministry of Finance launched the AuroraAI program in February 2020. The ongoing program is set to continue evolving until it will be made fully available by the end of 2022.

The program lays the foundation for using Artificial Intelligence to bring services and people together in a better way. AuroraAI is going to be developed on the basis of people’s real life-events. 

The aim of AuroraAI is to develop an operating model for arranging public administration activities to support people in different life situations and life events so that services provided by organizations function seamlessly between different sectors.

According to the Finnish Ministry of Finance, the main goal of the AuroraAI National Artificial Intelligence program is to implement an operations model based on citizens' needs, where Artificial Intelligence helps both citizens and companies to make use of services in a timely and ethically sustainable manner. 

“The core idea of the AuroraAI program involves proactively offering services to people according to their own life-events. This is something new and unique. AuroraAI helps service users and service providers find each other. It also produces savings for the entire national economy by improving the cost-efficiency of services,” says Päivi Nerg, Permanent Under-Secretary for Governance Policy. 

The Finnish government has the benchmark on providing the best AI-enabled Public Services in the world. AuroraAI empowers citizens by putting them at the driver's seat on fair data ownership; it grants them control over who has access to their personal data and on what terms. AuroraAI takes Finland's citizens and the whole nation into the era of Platform Economy.

"Before AuroraAI, the program was called Assistant. It wasn't good enough, for AuroraAI isn't just about technology or chatbots but a systematic transformation at a societal level," told me Aleksi Kopponen, Special Advisor of Digitalization at the Finnish Ministry of Finance.

The AuroraAI Program reduces the amount of time that citizens spend running from one place to another. The program improves the functional and technical possibilities for cooperation between public administration and other sectors. In addition, it strengthens the ethical use of Artificial Intelligence as part of public services provision and operating models.

According to the AuroraAI Program Manager Ira Alanko, “the AuroraAI program is being developed via concrete life-events. This will be achieved by using snapshots to examine life from the human perspective: A person who is about to go through a certain life-event –such as changing jobs– will automatically be offered public, private, and third sector services to proactively support the transition from one job to another without a separate period of unemployment.”  

The development of the AuroraAI network will constitute a solid ground for the model, which will enable the technical prerequisites for interaction and interoperability between services functioning on different platforms.

The AuroraAI network serves as an interactive link between services provided by the public administration organizations and the services of other sectors. The AuroraAI network will be available to citizens, residents, and organizations in Finland for its use in selected life-events by the end of 2022. 

AuroraAI: Finland's AI program is based on open networking

The AuroraAI Program is based on open, cross-sectoral networking. The organizations participating in the program will jointly improve the technology and the digitalization capabilities in the public sector. In addition, they will develop cooperation between the public and private sectors in accordance to the government programme. 

The launch of AuroraAI in 2020 includes the development of the first version of the operating model as well as the releasing of the first beta version of the AuroraAI network to be utilized by both citizens and organizations.

The AuroraAI program is based on Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s government program, according to which Finland wants to be recognized as a technology development pioneer that enhances and implements the opportunities created by digitalization and technology advances across administrative and sectoral boundaries. 

The aim of the AuroraAI program is to use the AuroraAI network to facilitate smoother functioning of everyday life and business, all within a data-secure and ethically sustainable manner.

The future of Finland: Vision 2030 

All the technologies shown in the video above are already developed in Finland today. 

It is not only Artificial Intelligence what is at the forefront of Finland's development. The nation is expanding its technologies in all directions. From a wireless roll-out of 6G technology to Super IoT to Augmented Projection Interfaces; from physical and cyber fusion to health analytics services and autonomous health, to smart materials for smart clothes and 3D-printed electronics products. 

The national 2030 Agenda was submitted to the Finnish Parliament in 2017. The implementation process is led by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). The Finnish strategy for 2030 provides a long-term strategic framework for a whole-of-society commitment for sustainable development with a vision of a sustainable future city with AI observing and catering services.   

Finland is known for its innovation and educated people. Finland is already building a future that today may seem like science fiction. However, with the right tools and partners coupled with state-of-the-art technology and innovation, Finland is looking at a future where monitoring an unborn baby's well-being while traveling in a hyper-fast train will be as common and simple as checking email or your social media on your smartphone today. 

In the Finland of the future, sending an autonomous harvester on an autonomous truck from Finland to Australia, or across the Atlantic on an autonomous ship will be part of the everyday business. 

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