World best practices - Finland, Portugal









Technovation Girls Armenia 2021competition is sponsored by the Ministry of foreign affairs of Finland

It is not surprising that Finlad is in the leader with the rapidly changing world innovation initiatives. To withstand future challenges, we should to broaden our perspectives to come up with solutions to social and enonomic issues.  
 In Finland, as in many other countries, methods and systems have been created to promote innovations and capitalize on them. Success is not founded on science or technical inventions alone, however, although they are a great help.
At the beginning of the 1990s, people started talking about social innovations – innovations that cannot be patented – as the foundation of the Finnish welfare state. This foundation has also been a prerequisite for all Finnish technological innovations.

Finnish innovative ideas have a wide range; from technological to social

  “100 Social Innovation from Finland”



When 21-year-old Linus Torvalds started developing his own unix-based PC operating system, he hardly imagined that he would challenge the world’s mightiest operating system corporation Microsoft and end up an idol of computer enthusiasts around the world. The decisive moment for Linux was when Torvalds decided to upload the source code of Linux’s first version to the Internet and let anyone download, use and develop it. All that Torvalds asked in return was feedback from Linux users. He received oceans of it, and soon there was an Internet network of thousands of volunteers working with Linux in over 90 countries. However, without Linus Torvalds, the network would have lacked a direction and goal. Linux’s greatest innovation of is not therefore technical but social. What at first might appear as an anarchic and volunteer-based Linux community has been able to create an efficient and innovative organisation whose members are uniquely motivated and committed to develop and maintain Linux. The Linux community is a fine example of new network organisations being enabled by communication technology. The vast majority of those who have participated in developing Linux have never met each other – except through the Internet. Linux is the most famous open source programme in the world. Open source programmes have to comply with the criteria established by the Open Source Initiative, the main principle being that everyone must have free access to both the programme and its source code. Everyone is entitled to modify the programme as they wish, providing that the modified source code is also freely accessible, and that it can be further modified. This is in stark contrast to commercial software development, where source codes have traditionally been jealously guarded business secrets, which means that they cannot be exploited elsewhere and that users cannot evaluate the quality of their programmes. In widely used open source programmes like Linux, every single row of the source code is analysed by a mass of people. Testing is much more profound than commercial programmes’ quality control, and Linux is consequently known for its reliability and speed. The People’s Army of China, for instance, decided to use Linux mainly because they can check for themselves what their computers’ operating system is doing. Linux and other open source programmes have become especially popular in developing countries, where people cannot afford to pay for licences for commercial programmes, and because Linux functions in old computers which are still used in developing countries. If a particular function is missing, local people can always programme it by themselves. Although Linux itself is freeware, it has also generated business and commercial services. For example, ibm, Sun and Novel use it in their servers and have invested millions in developing Linux, and many “embedded systems” like mobile phones and video recorders also use it. In addition, 70% of the world’s 500 fastest computers use Linux as their operating system. Linux is however still used relatively rarely in personal computers, mainly because its installation has required considerable computing skills. Even though distribution packages have been developed to facilitate installation, it is still quite complicated. Linux and other open source programmes have recently also become a political issue, as public authorities’ data systems have been criticised for becoming too dependent on software company’s products. The result is likely to be a stalemate: open source programmes will be more frequently used, but at the same time commercial software companies will improve the compatibility of their own products – even with open source programmes.

Jyrki J. J. Kasvi – Techn. D. Member of Parliament 2003–2011



IRC was born in August 1988 in the Department of Information Processing Science in the University of Oulu. I was starting my third year as a student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and was a summer trainee in the Department of Information Processing Science. My instructor Heikki Putkonen made me the administrator of OuluBox, a BBS system which was free for anyone to use through a modem or via the university computer network. Discussions could be held with other OuluBox users by leaving messages for others to read, and, as it could be accessed through the university network, it was possible to have scores of simultaneous users. I originally developed IRC as a solution for OuluBox’s real-time discussion needs. IRC was influenced by an mut (Multi-User Talk) programme that had been developed by Jukka Pihl and was used for a short time as OuluBox’s realtime chat programme before IRC superseded it. IRC was a distributed system from the start, so multiple IRC servers have always been able to form a common IRC network. Each user connects to a server, and the servers relay the messages from one user to another. The IRC network therefore consists of several equal servers. This real distributability and lack of central control is probably the most important technical reason for IRC’s popularity; it was the deciding factor when IRC was compared at the time with several other Internet chat programmes. IRC spread within Finland first; Helsinki University of Technology, Tampere University of Technology, the University of Jyväskylä and the Technical University of Tampere were the first IRC server locations after Oulu. Servers from the University of Denver and Oregon State University were the first non-Finnish servers to join the IRC network, which then spread quickly to every continent. Tens of people were now actively participating in IRC development following Open Source software development principles. At first many universities and departments, including the Department of Electrical Engineering in the University of Oulu, prohibited the use of IRC due to the fact that users tied up computer terminals for hours on end, keeping other students from their programming assignments. In 1991 ordinary people from e.g. Israel were using IRC to send reports about the first Gulf War to every corner of the globe. IRC has had an effect to the personal lives of tens of thousands of people the world over. Many have found their partners through IRC and numerous minorities (e.g. sexual, political, social) have formed societies to allow members to discuss things freely with other like-minded people. Nowadays there are hundreds of local and worldwide IRC networks, and the number of users is counted in millions.

Jarkko Oikarinen – Ph.D



Nowadays more than 3 billion GSM customers across the globe use SMS, Short Message Service, at work or just for fun. The most important features of the SMS are directness and speed, as well as the brevity of the message. Apart from being efficient, short messages are also polite they can be received without creating a disturbance and answered when appropriate. The idea of text messaging was born step by step. One ancestor of SMS is telex, which was still commonly used in the 1980s before e-mail and electronic phones arrived on the scene. Another root is the paging systems that were popular at the beginning of the 1980s. The beepers were able to receive text but the only way to send it was to dictate the text to an operator, who would then pass it on. It was clumsy to use and expensive for both the customer and the operator so the service never took off. The huge success of Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) inspired the Nordic telecommunications authorities to initiate a joint working group “FMK” in 1981 to develop future digital mobile communications. Engineers enthusiastically set out to develop radio technology that would be useful in everyday life, their ultimate goal being a multi-purpose pocket phone, which at the time was regarded by many as something of a joke. The first time that I realized that short text messages between mobile phones would be a useful device was in a brainstorming session with Juhani Tapiola and Seppo Tiainen in Copenhagen in the early 1980s when we met the evening before the Nordic project had sub-group meetings to prepare ourselves and discuss the feartures we hoped would become part of future mobile communications (FMK). Juhani Tapiola was mainly concerned with the difficulty of sending text messages to pagers, I was a firm believer in pocket phones, and Seppo Tiainen usually had a quick grasp of how an abstract idea could be concretely realised. First we concluded that the future system should enable messages to be dialed from pocket phones to pagers. Juhani Tapiola took a programmable HP calculator from his pocket to prove that the number of buttons needed to write messages with a small tool would not be a problem. Soon I realised that the whole paging system was unnecessary as the same mobile phone could also receive incoming messages. We excitedly made a list of different uses for text messages and invented a Finnish name for our system: “tekstinäpellin”. Of course, back then we never dreamt that in the space of 15 years text messages would be an everyday tool, not only for business but also for families and children everywhere around the world. At the same time as FMK was planning the first pieces of the modern mobile communication jigsaw, the same thing was also happening among many other national and international development teams. Text messages were also being considered in a Franco-German collaboration, and when European efforts were gradually moved into one organisation (Group Special Mobiles (GSM)) the Franco-German proposal for a text service (SMS) was worked into the final specification. The existence of SMS is based on the rapid development of enabling technologies, the free sharing of information, a huge joint effort to specify the new services and systems and the unselfish work of thousands of individuals. The international telecommunications field in the 1970s and early 80s regarded the free sharing of ideas as a virtue and an absolute requirement. As a social innovation, text messaging may be legitimately called Finnish. In the mid-1990s, when SMS was widely available for mobile phone users, Finland was the leading country in offering mobile services. In Christmas 1996 the operators’ network collapsed under the weight of so many people sending their Christmas greetings by SMS, and the same thing happened later elsewhere.

Matti Makkonen–pioneer in mobile service


Various Finnish innvoative ideas in practice



Finns hold the world record in library use. On average, Finns go to the library 11 times per year and borrow about 17 books, recordings, or other material. The population of Finland is 5.5 million, and more than 3 million people have a library card. So why are Finns such enthusiastic library users? Libraries are part of the Finnish way of life. Knowledge is held in high esteem. Finns read a lot, which also shows in book sales, newspaper reader numbers, and the great popularity of annual book fairs. Especially the sales of books for children and adolescents are high. Finnish public libraries fulfil the needs of their users in a great variety of ways. In addition to offering books, music, and videos, they have started providing e-books during the past decade. And scholarly electronic publications have become extremely important resources for university libraries. There has recently been much public discussion about how to get trustworthy information. Efficient Internet search engines have not replaced the need to evaluate the quality of the information found. Fact checking is what the people with graduate degrees working in the information service of libraries are experts at. Media literacy and information literacy have become part of the advice and training offered to library customers looking for information. The more difficult the question, the more likely it is to get better answers from a library’s information specialist than from Google hits. More and more Finnish libraries have become part of the sharing economy in a broader sense by lending appliances and devices that not everyone can afford to buy, for example computers and 3D printers. Other everyday needs are also catered to; for example, it may be possible to measure blood pressure, rent Nordic walking poles, or use a sewing machine in the local library. Libraries also fulfil a communal role. They provide a free meeting place, whose impact on the surrounding community shouldn’t be underestimated. Events organised by libraries cater to people of all ages, ranging from storytimes to homework help to helping senior citizens use online services. Language cafés are an example of new services organised for immigrants, who have become an important customer group for libraries. To support the increasing number of people who are self-employed or telework, some libraries provide a space where one can work and engage in networking. These services are also important in making municipalities economically more attractive, which means that people want to move there and housing prices go up. There is a public library in each of Finland’s municipalities, and a total of about 800 throughout the country. Their services are free and have become part of the basic services provided by municipalities. They guarantee citizens equal access to knowledge and to the activities in their community. The strength of Finnish public libraries is based on several underlying factors. The strong support provided by national budgets until the 1990s has played an important role; public libraries in Finland were much less dependent on municipal budgets than in many other countries. Libraries have also had an acknowledged role in the information society programs of Finnish governments. And librarians have become highly trained information specialists. Finnish libraries collaborate closely. Customers notice this in the form of flexible regional service. For example, an item borrowed from any library in the Finnish Capital Region can be return to any library in the region. Collaboration also creates synergy benefits in the production of services. Collaborative forums such as and the online services of the National Library enable coordinated organisation of services and joint production of special services, and they save resources. The basic strategy of Finnish libraries is a sensible division of labour among local, regional, and national libraries so that all can focus on their most relevant tasks. For example, local libraries can concentrate on serving their local communities, while services meant for all can be developed at the national level, for example, the joint information retrieval user interface FINNA of libraries, archives, and museums. In the 2000s, new library buildings have aroused public interest. The Kaisa Library of the University of Helsinki has become a popular destination among tourists. And the new main library of Helsinki, already received much public attention during its planning stage, in part due to public participation in the planning process. Finnish libraries have created a well organised network that enables citizens to get information and to participate in society and that offers a variety of communal and cultural services. They have managed to transition smoothly to the Internet age and to strengthen their importance through diverse services widely appreciated by customers – libraries get top scores in customer service surveys. Libraries are nowadays the cultural service that Finns use the most. They are also among the least expensive information and culture services – libraries are allocated on average less than one percent of municipal budgets. This small investment pays for itself many times over in sustainable development reflected in the form of increased know-how, well-being, and economic benefit. If libraries didn’t exist, we’d have to invent them.

Kaarina Dromberg – Minister of culture 2002–2003


Finnish Magic


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