Best practice awards 2006
The Prime Minister of Finland Mr. Matti Vanhanen awarded 23th of november 2006 best Finnish practices in the field of information society. There were 79 participants in the competition in three different categories. The jury was headed by the Minister of Transport and Communication Mrs. Susanna Huovinen.
Winners of the Prime Minister’s Awards for Best Practices 2006
New innovations category
Winner: Consumer Gadget
tel. +358 50 593 3854
The Consumer Gadget is the consumer's new best friend. With the Consumer Gadget, consumers can check the ethical background of any consumer item. The Consumer Gadget was designed for use in mobile-phone handsets. It uses the EAN barcodes of products to search for data – scan one into the Consumer Gadget and it will provide you with screenfuls of ethics facts. The Consumer Gadget was designed to be used in shops and stores, before you decide to buy something and before it is too late.
For more information on the Consumer Gadget, visit the website www.kulutuskapula.com
An illustration of how the Consumer Gadget works:
In its judgement, the jury put special emphasis on the Consumer Gadget's potential for further development. The practice could be easily applied to a number of other contexts thanks to, for example, the opportunities provided by camera phones. The practice could be used to provide consumers with various types of useful information on the ethical considerations of manufacture and the allergic reactions products may cause, for example. Consumers could also use the practice to provide each other with valuable information by sharing their experiences of products. In the opinion of the jury, the award will promote the further development of the practice to provide better service for consumers and to include more varied and reliable product information in the service.
National Board of Taxes
tel. +358 40 537 1277
Palkka.fi provides a free internet service to small employers to calculate and pay the salaries and wages of their employees as well as the social security contributions and other non-wage payroll costs. The service creates the required statements of paid items and sends them electronically at the right time to the appropriate recipients: the tax authorities, pension and accident insurance companies, The Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela), etc. In addition, an individual archive will be created for all registered users.
A free internet service to help employers meet their obligations.
The practice makes it easier and more efficient to calculate salaries and associated contributions and payments, to effect the payments and file the related statements. The service is free of charge to all small employers, households, businesses and associations. The jury considered the practice an excellent example of good customer service provided by the authorities.
Effectiveness and productivity category
Winner: Precompleted income tax return
National Board of Taxes
tel. +358 40 537 1277
The precompleted income tax return form continues down the path of the much-praised tax proposal. For the first time, all taxpayers received a precompleted tax return form in spring 2006.
With the new form, the taxpayer only needs to check the information entered by the Tax Administration. If the information is correct, then that is all there is to it: the tax return has been filed. If there are errors on the form, the taxpayer corrects them and files the corrected return form.
More than one in two taxpayers received a completely correct precompleted return form, thanks to the information society and the opportunities it offers. The Tax Administration collected 95% of the pre-entered information electronically directly from the source: employers and other payment makers.
Precompleted tax return campaign site
The precompleted income tax return continues down the path of the much-praised tax proposal. The practice has significantly reduced the time taxpayers need to complete and file their returns. It has also substantially reduced the Tax Administration's internal costs from processing return forms. In the jury's opinion, the practice makes excellent use of existing electronic base registers to collect and use information. The practice and legislation supporting it will, in the jury's opinion, encourage other administrative sectors to make use of electronic sources of information and provide electronic services in their respective sectors. The practice has also improved the quality and image of the authorities' activities.
Commendation: Penguins in school – Now
Municipality of Noormarkku, Education Services
Principal Esa Kohtamäki
tel. +358 400 901512
During the last three years, we have improved the computer education we provide and our school network using open source software and LTSP technology. This has dramatically increased the use and effectiveness of computers at our school, and we have managed to reduce costs to a fraction of what they used to be. We have created a website that is open to everyone so that anyone can share the benefits and contribute to developing the expanding network with other interested people.
Using LTSP technology, we have built a network in our school (500 students and 40 teachers) with more than 90 remote terminals (i.e., we have achieved the target student-to-computer ratio defined in the Information Society Programme).
All students and staff members have a personal username and password they can use to access a personal desktop, home folder (with unrestricted size), e-mail, web, office applications (OpenOffice), image processing (Gimp) and educational and training software.
As a result, the need for computers has increased so much that we will add another computer room to the currently existing two computer rooms and one media/library room. Moreover, there is at least one terminal in each classroom. In other words, computer use has increased dramatically compared to the time before this project when the computer hardware we had was barely usable. We used to suffer from recurring software malfunctions, computer instability, excessive size of software and limited funds for updating hardware and software, pranks by students, etc. As a result, the teachers were increasingly unwilling to use computers, the computer teacher had to spend his spare time at the school, and the cost of continuous maintenance was heavy on the schools finances.
Thanks to our development work, however, all this is behind us now.
The computer teacher needs only four weekly hours to maintain and update the school's computers, train staff and do the same to the 25 computers of the school next door and its staff, too!
We have placed our old computers back in use without needing to invest in updating them. We have also helped schools in neighbouring municipalities (Pomarkku, Siikainen) to reach the same stage in development and they have been able to set up their computer rooms simply by acquiring a server (EUR 2,500) and a low-cost switch. They have hooked up their old computers to the new server at a very low cost: for example, a new network adapter costs EUR 7.
The Satakuntaliitto, the Regional Council of Satakunta, provided the municipality of Noormarkku with EUR 42,000 to launch the project. This was used to initiate a project to introduce open source software to schools in Satakunta region. Our website www.antarktis.fi provides additional information. In the autumn we will contact decision-makers and schools in Satakunta region to tell them about the successes achieved in this project.
During this spring, we helped to create corresponding systems in the municipalities of Nauvo, Paimio, Valkeakoski and Eura. During last year, 28 different groups visited our school to see and learn about our system. Some of them have already set up a corresponding system in their school (for example in the new Vitikkala school in Jämsänkoski).
The development project has been largely managed by Alpo Välimaa and Janne Karjanlahti.
- Antarktis (project site)
- Finpyy school, Noormarkku
Drawing upon the local resources, the practice makes efficient use of available software and existing hardware to serve the needs of the Education Services of the municipality of Noormarkku. The jury appreciated Noormarkku's active role in publicising the project within the public sector and the fact that it has also assisted other municipalities in adopting and using the practice.
Application and promotion of data security category
Winner: Risk management in SMEs
Technical Research Centre of Finland VTT
tel. +358 40 835 6643
As businesses have to adapt to operating environments that change at an increasingly fast pace, risk management has become more and more critical. As risks change, businesses need tools to manage risks associated with information, personnel, crime and the environment.
The SME Risk Management (PK-RH®) toolkit offers concrete tools for comprehensive risk management. It is backed by more than ten years of research and development carried out by research institutions and SMEs. The toolkit has thousands of users and it is rapidly gaining ground in the private and public sectors. Special applications of the toolkit have also been tailored for specific sectors and individual companies. The toolkit is available on a CD-ROM and work is underway to distribute it via a web portal.
The original toolkit was developed by the Technical Research Centre of Finland VTT, the Turku School of Economics and Business Administration and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH). Several other partners were involved in further development, and they have formed an informal cooperation network called the PK-RH Forum. The forum has more than 60 members, including authorities, special interest groups, insurance companies, research institutions, associations and businesses.
This unique toolkit has also attracted interest elsewhere in Europe. Some of the tools have been translated into Swedish, English, German, French and Dutch.
The SME Risk Management (PK-RH®) toolkit offers concrete tools for comprehensive risk management.
The jury emphasised the importance of data security to SMEs. The practice provides SMEs with informative and advanced tools for improving the standard of their information security. The jury also emphasised the pre-emptive approach to data security and the fact that the practice promotes SMEs' preparedness with regard to data security. The practice could be developed into an exportable product and parts of the toolkit have already been translated into Swedish, English, German, French and Dutch.
Commendation: Citizens' computer support
Turku University of Applied Sciences
tel. +358 10-553 5332
The Turku University of Applied Sciences launched its Citizens' computer support service in September 2004. It has proven very popular and includes a real support desk, a telephone hotline and web service, and training. The service mostly 'cleans up' computers and provides advice on using anti-virus and firewall software.
For the University, the Citizen's computer support service is a learning environment within which it provides courses on advice and guidance. What is more, providing an actual service puts students in situations that are not only challenging but also motivating and educational. Students can also make their final project on the service and complete required training by working at Citizen's computer support.
The service constitutes a win-win situation where customers receive help and find a solution to their computer, networks and security problems while the students of the Turku University of Applied Sciences learn about technical matters and customer service and earn credits, and local businesses get informed customers who know what they need, thanks to Citizen's computer support. In fact, the computer support service is now an elective course of 80 hours, which comprises 70 hours of work providing the support and 10 hours of reporting.
By spring 2006, the support had cleaned up more than 1,000 computers. Almost 500 questions sent by e-mail had been replied to. Some 10 calls are received each day where students provide support in various computer-related matters. In autumn 2005, the service began offering advice on how to use the wireless OpenSpark network.
The service maintains a list of local computer businesses to which they can refer the customer if needed. The most common problems have to do with starting up and viruses and other computer malware. Most of the feedback from businesses has been positive because the Citizen's computer support provides its customers with a diagnosis form that indicates what has been done to the computer in addition to time-consuming checks for viruses and malware.
The concept has attracted national interest and polytechnics and applied sciences universities offering computer courses are eager to copy the model.
Website of Citizen's computer support
The support is a commendable example of a free service available to anyone with problems concerning data security. The practice provides the users of the service with free advice and documentation from computer students as well as support with data security and other matters concerning computers and their operation. Service is also available from a physical service desk at the Turku University of Applied Sciences. With the increasing use of information technology, there is growing demand for such services throughout the country while at the same time the concept offers considerable business potential. Moreover, the practice provides students with invaluable practical experience.
tel. + 358 9 6220 2939
Most people manage to cut down on or put an end to abusing a substance by themselves, without professional help. For roughly a decade, the AddictionLink web service of the A-Clinic Foundation has helped people to use their own resources to help themselves. At the same time, it has also made it easier to seek help.
Over the years, AddictionLink has grown from an information source into the most popular service on substance abuse in Finland thanks to interactive services. In 2005, AddictionLink had 34,000 individual visitors each month, with more than 60,000 in January (Taloustutkimus Web Traffic Monitor). The service has clearly reached a large segment of substance users.
The idea underlying AddictionLink is to provide a set of services that support citizens and complement each other. It offers services and information from early self-identification of problematic substance use to peer support and virtual therapy. In addition to those with addiction problems, the service provides help, advice and information to their families and friends, professionals who need information on intoxicants and special groups such as sign language users and foreigners living in Finland.
AddictionLink is based on a databank of impartial research data. It contains over 140 brief bulletins by experts on intoxicants. Information is easily available on various intoxicants also from the quick info section, which provides a one-click link to the more in-depth data. The Intoxicants and Brains animation, popular especially among young people, shows how intoxicants influence the emotions and actions of the users through the brain's neurotransmitters.
The most popular section are the self-tests on alcohol use, drug and pharmaceuticals use, smoking, playing and web surfing, which provide people with a new and fresh perspective on their situation. With the BAC Counter, you can estimate the amount of alcohol in your blood and how many hours will it take to burn all of it. In addition to the AddictionLink site, BAC Counter can be used with mobile handsets either as an SMS service or as a Java™ version downloadable to more recent models. The BAC Counter SMS service was also launched in the Czech Republic in 2005.
If you need a change, the Self-help section offers tools, and the popular forums of AddictionLink provide other sources of help. There is also a journal, web use contract and the open forum Katiska for those addicted to web surfing. The forums also include semi-open and restricted guided groups for people trying to stop their substance abuse. For example, substance abuse and motherhood is a sensitive subject, and anonymous peer support is often the only channel available to mothers for support in seeking a change.
Assistance and advice is also available anonymously from the social therapists and the physician of the AddictionLink. Each year, they personally respond to questions from some 1,500 substance abusers or their friends and family members. In addition, they provide assistance to social and health care professionals. The hotline is free of charge and confidential while the system the service is based on is completely secure. Users receive a code with which they can retrieve an answer to their question within a week.
The AddictionLink is not just one or two innovations but a combination of small and big inventions in service of a larger goal: the reduction of substance use and addiction.
The jury emphasised the social effectiveness of the practice in helping people break with substance abuse and addictions. The service is useful to abusers and peer support groups, specialists, authorities, researchers and the friends and family of addicts. Special groups have also been taken into consideration. In its reasoning, the jury also emphasised the pre-emptive effect on national health of the practice in reducing the occurrence of abuse-related problems and promoting self-help in health care. In the jury's opinion the practice has considerable potential for expansion in health care and other sectors, too.