Innovative digital solutions arise through cooperation between students and public sector actors
Seven public sector organisations – the Apotti project, the Finnish Patent and Registration Office, the National Police Board, the Finnish Defence Forces, The Finnish Border Guard, the Ministry of the Interior, and Finnish Customs – presented Aalto students with the challenge to develop solutions that will make it easier to deal with the aforementioned organisations and increase the use of their online and mobile services. These challenges have been tackled since the November kick-off event for the Public Service Hackathon #pshack100 course, which is open to all Aalto University MA students.
The course is in its final stages, and on 9 February 2017 it will reach its climax at the grand final, hosted by Accenture, in which the best team selected from each organisation will present their ideas to a prestigious jury. At the end of the event, the winning team will be announced. The winner must not only have an excellent innovation, but also give the perfect pitch. The main speaker at the ‘Finland100 - Digital Superpower’ event will be Government Minister Anu Vehviläinen.
Five innovative solutions, five inspiring presentations
Below are presented the challenges presented to the students and the solutions offered by the finalists.
Armed Forces: The Armed Forces’ problem was the large amount of food waste generated by catering services for conscripts. The solution to this problem was simple: a mobile-based platform through which the conscripts would order their own food. In this way the conscripts themselves could decide what and when they eat during their period of service.
Finnish Patent and Registration Office (PRH): For someone founding a business, it is hard to found the essential information on the current PRH web pages, and the recruitment process for businesses is unclear. The solution to this is to design for the web pages a registration practice environment, a ‘sandbox’, where the essential information for establishing a business is visually presented in a clear way. The user of the practice environment can explore at ease the form-filling process, without needing to worry about accidentally doing something wrong.
Finnish Customs: The solution for digitalising the Finnish Custom’s services is an information system and service which is integrated into mobile banking and would thus enable the comprehensive digitalisation of the customs process for those travelling across Finnish borders. Thanks to the service, users could easily take care of customs procedures for all goods bought from outside of the European Union. The service would enable easy communication between Finnish Customs and tourists, help travellers to manage their travel budgets, and make the shift to online customs and tax payments.
Apotti Project: The challenge was to improve the quality of life of informal carers of elderly people. The solution is a personified assistance service called Ilona which helps the informal carer in their daily life. Ilona connects the elderly with both public and private service providers. Ilona understands normal speech, collects and analyses data and proactively provides elderly clients with suggestions for free-time activities, social and health care services and other services provided by private bodies.
Ministry of the Interior, National Police Board and the Border Guard: The solution for digitalising the services under the Ministry of the Interior was the 505 Finland Customer Service Bot, developed by the students, which is able to help citizens with their problems in a way which spans administrative boundaries. The bot, which operates based on machine-learning, is able for example to answer questions, provide instructions and, where needed, forward the users’ service request onto the relevant authorities. The bot can be contacted either by calling or by using texting apps such as WhatsApp and Messenger.
The solutions and presentations described above were judged to be the best from among the 26 participating teams. The finalists were decided based on the teams’ three-minute pitches, which were presented on 16 December at the School of Business. A total of 94 Aalto students from five of the university’s schools have participated in the #pshack100 course, as well as 18 students from the National Defence University. The course has involved lectures, intensive group work and excursions, and the students have also been provided with coaching. The coaches have included experts from Accenture and Fjord, members of the Aalto community, and representatives from public sector organisations. The 24-hour Hackathon event, held in November, was a central part of the course.
Senior University Lecturer Johanna Bragge, from the School of Business's Department of Information and Service Economy, has worked as the course’s academic coordinator. In addition to Ms Bragge, others from Aalto involved in implementing the course have included Professor of Practice Esko Penttinen, Assistant Professor Eeva Vilkkumaa, University Lecturer Christa Uusi-Rauva and Postdoctoral Researchers Jani Merikivi and Darius Pacauskas.
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Representatives of the media are welcome to attend the ‘Finland100 - Digital Superpower’ event, which will be held on Thursday 9 February from 3pm to 7pm at the following address: Kellohalli, Työpajankatu 2, Helsinki (Building 1 E).
Media registration: Terhi Ollikainen, Aalto University Communications Services, [email protected] or +358 (0)50 566 5673.