Good question – what is the most innovative country in the world? You’d think it was probably America, with Silicon Valley, or you might hope that it’s Scotland, or the UK generally, with our burgeoning digital industries. You’d be wrong though. It’s probably Finland*.
To show why Finland is so far ahead, let’s have a small diversion…
OK, your house is going digital – how about your town?
You’ve all heard the adverts – you know, “with <insert name of product> you control your home from your phone”. You might think this is quite clever, but now the Finnish city of Tampere is going one better.
As reported recently by Computer Weekly, the city “is investing up to €10bn until 2030 to put digital technology at the core of everything it does”.
This is a fascinating project. Finland has been ahead of this particular game for some time. Last November, at the Smart City Expo in Barcelona, six Finnish cities, Tampere, Turku, Oulu, Lahti, Joensuu and Jyväskylä, presented their innovative new approaches to matters as diverse as connectivity solutions, mobile payment, parking control cloud service, map based information and 3D city model for planning as well as intelligent outdoor lighting and smart energy systems.
Now, Tampere, is going to the next level, with a five-year, smart-city programme that Kari Kankaala, their Director of City Development, says will “systematically drive digitisation in the city and target our economic investment to encourage companies to use the opportunities of digitisation in their own businesses”.
The Computer Weekly article covered the entire spread of planned activities, but the one that particularly impressed me is the project to use all of Tampere’s 33,000 street lights as “a test platform that can be equipped with wireless networks, 5G base stations, different surveillance and security”, thus becoming a connectivity backbone for the whole city”.
This is so exciting. The potential for all our cities to become digitised in the future is immense. It makes me wonder to what extent we could begin to do similar things in Scotland. I’ll be honest, I don’t know at present, but it would be great if we could develop a similar reputation to Finland for innovation and digital excellence. While we’re not at all bad here in Scotland just now, we are certainly not yet in a position to make Edinburgh or Glasgow a truly smart city as envisaged for Tampere. Our two countries are very similar in terms of population, GDP, employment, etc. yet the Finns have a head start when it comes to innovation. However, when you consider that in the not too distant past, Scottish entrepreneurs, industrialists and inventors were leading the world (think radar, the telephone, pneumatic tyres, TV, penicillin, etc.) there ought to be no reason why this could not happen again in the future…?
Nikola Kelly, Be-IT Resourcing
* World Economic Forum, Global Competitiveness Report 2014–20