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Finland

Clear Administration (FI0019)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Finland, Second Action Plan, 2015-17

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Finance

Support Institution(s): Ministries, agencies, municipalities, Association of local and regional authorities, Institute for the Languages of Finland

Policy Areas

E-Government, Public Service Delivery

IRM Review

IRM Report: Finland End-of-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Issue to be addressedThe structure of the government is complex and language used is difficult to understand. It is not easy for citizens to understand where and how decisions are made and prepared. Commitments on clear administration were already in the first Finnish Action Plan. Ministries, agencies and municipalities have already done many things: developing the language in legislation, renewing the webpages and clearing the language of customer letters and administrative instructions. In some cases the citizens have been part in the co-designers in the processes. The clarity of the customer letters enhances the quality and productivity of the process: the number of contacts and complaints to the service centers afterwards decline, when citizens understand what the decision means and what the reasons for such a decision are. Government work is mostly based on language, since both written texts and oral communication are parts of official parlance. Respectively, most of the communication and interaction problems in government are solved by enhancing the official parlance. The work towards a clearer administration is on a good track, but there still is a lot of work to be done. Major ongoing reforms are targeting clearer language, structure and governance models. There is a risk, that in change situations citizens experience government to be even more confusing and distant and their participation possibilities faint. The need to enhance the clarity of the language and structures in the administration was strongly raised during face-to-face meetings with citizens. Main Objective: Clear structures and processes in addition to customer-orientation are targeted in major reforms. Structures and processes are described so, that citizens know which authority should be contacted in different issues. The official parlance is correct, clear and easy to understand. Information on issues under preparation is available and can easily be found. Administration takes feedback and takes account of it when developing its ways of working.
Milestones and Indicators: 1. The structures and processes of the government are clear and customeroriented and they have been described intelligibly. Indicator: survey 2015 and 2017. 2. The official parlance is clearer than previosly. Indicator: The number of agencies and municipalities, which have enhanced the comprehensibility of their texts according to customer feedback. Survey 2015 and 2017. 3. Ministries, agencies and municipalities provide material also in plain language. Indicator: Number of publications provided in plain language. Survey 2015 and 2017. 4. Visualizations (infographics) are used in government publications. Indicator: Number of agencies using visualizations. Survey 2015 and 2017. 5. The government web-pages are accessible and compatible with assistive devices. Indicator: estimate now 5 %, comparison with the estimate of year 2017 6. Government services are easily found in the Internet. Indicator: Survey 2015 and 2017.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

Commitment 1. Clear Administration

Commitment Text:

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed:

The structure of the government is complex and language used is difficult to understand. It is not easy for citizens to understand where and how decisions are made and prepared.

Commitments on clear administration were already in the first Finnish Action Plan. Ministries, agencies and municipalities have already done many things: developing the language in legislation, renewing the webpages and clearing the language of customer letters and administrative instructions. In some cases the citizens have been part in the co-designers in the processes.

The clarity of the customer letters enhances the quality and productivity of the process: the number of contacts and complaints to the service centers afterwards decline, when citizens understand what the decision means and what the reasons for such a decision are.

Government work is mostly based on language, since both written texts and oral communication are parts of official parlance. Respectively, most of the communication and interaction problems in government are solved by enhancing the official parlance.

The work towards a clearer administration is on a good track, but there still is a lot of work to be done. Major ongoing reforms are targeting clearer language, structure and governance models. There is a risk, that in change situations citizens experience government to be even more confusing and distant and their participation possibilities faint.

The need to enhance the clarity of the language and structures in the administration was strongly raised during face-to-face meetings with citizens.

Main objective:

Clear structures and processes in addition to customer orientation are targeted in major reforms. Structures and processes are described so that citizens know which authority should be contacted in different issues.

The official parlance is correct, clear and easy to understand. Information on issues under preparation is available and can easily be found. Administration takes feedback and takes account of it when developing its ways of working.

Milestones:

1.1. The structures and processes of the government are clear and customer oriented and they have been described intelligibly. Indicator: survey 2015 and 2017

1.2. The official parlance is clearer than previously. Indicator: The number of agencies and municipalities, which have enhanced the comprehensibility of their texts according to customer feedback. Survey 2015 and 2017

1.3. Ministries, agencies and municipalities provide material also in plain language. Indicator: Number of publications provided in plain language. Survey 2015 and 2017.

1.4. Visualizations (infographics) are used in government publications. Indicator: Number of agencies using visualizations. Survey 2015 and 2017.

1.5. The government web-pages are accessible and compatible with assistive devices. Indicator: estimate now 5 %, comparison with the estimate of year 2017

1.6. Government services are easily found in the Internet. Indicator: Survey 2015 and 2017.

Responsible institution: Ministry of Finance

Supporting institution(s): Ministries, agencies, municipalities, Association of local and regional authorities, Institute for the Languages of Finland

Start date: 1.7.2015..............                         End date: 30.6.2015

Context and Objectives

This commitment aims to provide clear information about government structures and processes to ensure that citizens understand how decisions are made. This is to be achieved by increasing the use of plain language texts, creating data visualizations, and making government information more user friendly.

Issues of clarity in official government language have been an ongoing challenge in Finland. For example, the Social Insurance Institution (Kela) receives well over 25,000 phone calls each year about customer letters and other written information it sends out to citizens.  http://www.sanakirja.org/search.php?id=1373379&l2=17.  In 60 percent of these cases, Kela includes the necessary information in the letter, but the reader does not understand the text.  This is described in the Ministry of Culture and Education’s Good Official Language Guidelines: http://www.minedu.fi/export/sites/default/OPM/Julkaisut/2014/liitteet/tr02.pdf?lang=fi.  The need for clarity is underscored by current government reform projects, such as a major restructuring of regional governments and the Health and Social Services Agency. These changes will significantly affect service delivery for every citizen;  http://alueuudistus.fi/en/frontpage.  therefore, it is essential to provide the public with the opportunity to easily understand and participate in improving public services.

Completion

Many of the commitment activities include indicators for successful implementation but do not provide specific target numbers or values to assess completion. For example, the indicator for improving the clarity of government documents (1.2) is defined as the number of agencies and municipalities that have amended their texts according to customer feedback. However, the commitment language does not set a target number to measure completion or success. The government was to conduct an internal survey in the beginning and end of the implementation period, assessing the progress of each activity. The IRM was unable to find any evidence that the survey had been completed, making it difficult to establish a baseline for comparison.

Milestones 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and 1.4:

During the previous action plan period, the government launched a clear language campaign in the civil service, which ran from 13 October 2014 to 31 December 2015.  The Official Language Campaign: http://www.kotus.fi/kielitieto/virkakieli/yleista_virkakielesta/virkakielikampanja_2014_2015.  The Institute for the Languages of Finland (Kotus) led the initiative with assistance from the OGP team in the Ministry of Finance.  http://www.kotus.fi/kielitieto/virkakieli/yleista_virkakielesta/virkakielikampanja_2014_2015.  It was carried forward as the basis for this commitment in the current action plan. In October 2015, the government held a “Clear Language Day” event, and the agency that most improved its communication was awarded a prize. The campaign included six pilot projects that promoted clear language.  http://www.kotus.fi/kielitieto/virkakieli/yleista_virkakielesta/virkakielikampanja_2014_2015.  The pilot projects were carried out in the Ministry of Transport, the Finnish Transport Safety Agency, the Finnish Tax Administration, Kela’s Youth Disability Allowance Texts, the City of Tampere, and the City of Vaasa. Representatives from Kotus and participating cities reported that the pilot projects have encouraged changes in plain language publishing practices, and the projects are largely complete.  Interview with Tiina Salonen, head of communications for the City of Vantaa, September 2015.
Interview with Elina Uotila, head of development for the City of  Trafi, September 2015.
  It is necessary to note that additionally, training and awareness raising for clear language publishing is substantially completed, however, the number of improved materials produced remains relatively small in comparison to the large number of government documents available to citizens.

The government also published a list of plain language materials produced in 2015.  http://vm.fi/documents/10623/1193298/Avoimen+hallinto+tilannekatsaus+042016.pdf/9737094d-b1aa-4577-a61c-c66f57520bcd.  This list includes a total of 20 documents produced by 20 separate government ministries and agencies. The institutions updated these documents to improve clarity and accessibility, and the documents contained important information for citizens, such as information on parliamentary elections from the Ministry of Justice, health-related information from a variety of agencies, and pension information and simplified benefits application forms from the National Pension Office/Kela.

A representative of Selkokeskus (the National Center for Plain Language) saw this effort as a good start but not reaching far enough because it represents a small fraction of all the materials and services provided by the government.  Interview, 23 November 2016.  To best change government practice, plain language versions of materials should be an automatic requirement for documents produced in the three administrative languages (Finnish, Swedish, and English).
 

In May 2016, the Prime Minister’s Office published a clear language guide for civil servants in government agencies and municipalities. Topics include defining clear language, removing jargon from government documents, and providing guidance for official communication.  http://verkkojulkaisut.vm.fi/zine/92/article-13097.  The guide stresses the importance of clearly communicating government rules, benefits, and procedures to improve intergovernmental cooperation and citizen-government interaction. The government also prioritized increasing data visualizations. The Civil Servants Network and the Ministry of Education and Culture launched a “budget belongs to all” hackathon in October 2015  http://kaikkienbudjetti.fi/.  to create a visualization for government budget data. On its website, the Ministry of Finance posted an interactive visual representation of the state budget, intended to help citizens better understand yearly spending.  http://tutkibudjettia.fi/.  

According to a government representative, creating data visualizations has been a main focus of the Civil Servants Networks. The Prime Minister’s Office hired an in-house data visualization expert, and recently partnered with, Lucify, a start-up company,  Example of the interactive migration-related visualizations: http://www.lucify.com/.  to produce interactive visualizations of migration patterns and asylum seekers.  According to an Open Knowledge representative, such initiative indicates the growing priority for creating interactive visual data representations.  Interview with a representative from Open Knowledge Finland, 28 September 2016.  


Milestone 1.5: 
 

At the midterm, preparatory works to implement the European Parliament Accessibility Directive were underway. According to interviews with government officials, Finland is preparing to make all public-sector organizations’ websites user friendly and compatible with assistive devices. Such initiatives include improving website accessibility for the disabled by adding text-to-speech features and text zooming. The government’s self-assessment report states that there will be a four-year transition period and more public-sector bodies will be added, including schools. The government will work with private companies to develop user interfaces, where citizens can select interactive, role-based services. 
 

Milestone 1.6:

The National Architecture for Digital Services Project aims to reform the government’s digital services, making e-government resources easier to find and use online. Part of the project includes replacing the outdated Suomi.fi. digital services platform with an improved version that will allow citizens, private companies, and government officials to log into personal profiles and online services all from one platform.  http://vm.fi/en/national-architecture-for-digital-services.  The new version is available in beta stage and is expected to be fully operational in 2017.  https://beta.suomi.fi/kansalaiselle.   This could improve e-government but is of unclear relevance to OGP values.

Early Results

Implementation of this commitment has made some positive improvements related to access to information. During implementation of the previous action plan, the Kotus clear language campaign successfully carried out pilot projects that improved the clarity of  information on government services and procedures. Many individual civil servants, as well as Kotus and some government agencies, ordered more trainings as a result and made changes inspired by the campaign that have carried forward to the current commitment cycle.   Interview with Tiina Salonen. Interview with Elina Uotila.  However, as a representative from Kotus stated,  Interview, 23 November 2016.  the campaign took several small steps to the right direction. She acknowledged that simplifying official language is a major issue and going forward more time and resources will be required to continue improvements on a larger scale. A representative from Open Knowledge Finland and an open government expert from the University of Helsinki indicated that they have not seen any major changes in official language as a result of the commitment but acknowledged that this would be difficult to observe and measure.

According to one representative from Selkokeskus (the National Center for Plain Language),  Interview, 23 November 2016.  the plain language documents and visualizations produced so far have been helpful for improving access to information for more than 500,000 elderly people, disabled persons, and immigrants, individuals who often have barriers to accessing and understanding government resources. However, a limited amount of user-friendly material is available, and these groups need straightforward information to interact with the government and use services independently. In order to have a significant effect, the commitment needs to be fully implemented across the government.

Next Steps

Making government information useful and clear for citizens is essential for open government. Public institutions need to create more data visualizations in areas of high priority for citizens, similar to the interactive budget graphic produced by the Ministry of Finance. To determine high priority areas, the government could create more engagement opportunities for CSOs and citizens to provide feedback and should administer the delayed government assessment survey.

If this commitment is carried over to the next action plan, the IRM suggests creating clear targets for improvement. The government needs to specify the type and amount of information that each government sector should provide in plain language. The agencies participating should also be clearly listed, along with measurable benchmarks to monitor progress toward completion. In order to establish a baseline, the government should conduct a user survey prior to the commitment period, and publish the results. In addition, the government could establish consultation opportunities and a feedback mechanism for the duration of the implementation period, so citizens and CSOs are able to identify confusing information and recommend improvements. 

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 1. Clear administration

Commitment Text:

The structure of the government is complex and language used is difficult to understand. It is not easy for citizens to understand where and how decisions are made and prepared.

Commitments on clear administration were already in the first Finnish Action Plan. Ministries, agencies and municipalities have already done many things: developing the language in legislation, renewing the webpages and clearing the language of customer letters and administrative instructions. In some cases the citizens have been part in the co-designers in the processes.

The clarity of the customer letters enhances the quality and productivity of the process: the number of contacts and complaints to the service centers afterwards decline, when citizens understand what the decision means and what the reasons for such a decision are.

Government work is mostly based on language, since both written texts and oral communication are parts of official parlance. Respectively, most of the communication and interaction problems in government are solved by enhancing the official parlance.

The work towards a clearer administration is on a good track, but there still is a lot of work to be done. Major ongoing reforms are targeting clearer language, structure and governance models. There is a risk, that in change situations citizens experience government to be even more confusing and distant and their participation possibilities faint.

The need to enhance the clarity of the language and structures in the administration was strongly raised during face-to-face meetings with citizens.

Main Objective

Clear structures and processes in addition to customer orientation are targeted in major reforms. Structures and processes are described so, that citizens know which authority should be contacted in different issues. The official parlance is correct, clear and easy to understand. Information on issues under preparation is available and can easily be found. Administration takes feedback and takes account of it when developing its ways of working.

Milestones:

1.1. The structures and processes of the government are clear and customer oriented and they have been described intelligibly. Indicator: survey 2015 and 2017

1.2. The official parlance is clearer than previously. Indicator: The number of agencies and municipalities, which have enhanced the comprehensibility of their texts according to customer feedback. Survey 2015 and 2017

1.3. Ministries, agencies and municipalities provide material also in plain language. Indicator: Number of publications provided in plain language. Survey 2015 and 2017.

1.4. Visualizations (infographics) are used in government publications. Indicator: Number of agencies using visualizations. Survey 2015 and 2017.

1.5. The government web-pages are accessible and compatible with assistive devices. Indicator: estimate now 5 %, comparison with the estimate of year 2017

1.6. Government services are easily found in the Internet. Indicator: Survey 2015 and 2017.

Responsible Institution(s): Ministry of Finance

Supporting Institution(s): Ministries, agencies, municipalities, association of local and regional authorities, Institute for the Languages of Finland

Start Date: 1 July 2015 End Date: 30 June 2017

Commitment Aim:

This commitment was continued from Finland’s previous action plan, and it addresses the need for clearer structures and processes of the government administration. The cornerstone of the commitment is the clarification of official parlance in order to facilitate citizens’ understanding of the substance and argumentation of administrative decision making. In addition, the commitment aims to increase visual and accessible information. Specifically, the commitment targets large change projects, such as the regional government, health and social services reforms (due to be complete by 2020), during which citizens may feel distanced from the administration and feel that their opportunities to influence decision making are scarce. A focal activity of the commitment, instigated by citizens’ frequent inquiries and appeals, has been the clarification of government communication in customer letters and administrative instructions.

Status

Midterm: Substantial

The completion of this commitment was substantial at midterm. In May 2016, the Prime Minister’s office published a clear language guide for civil servants. Updated clear language documents were produced by 20 government ministries and agencies. An interactive visual representation of the state budget was uploaded to the Ministry of Finance website as a result of the hackathon organized by the Civil Servants Network and Ministry of Education and Culture in October 2016. As part of the National Architecture for Digital Services Project, the beta version of the Suomi.fi Web Service was made available upon midterm, and the service’s full functionality was expected in 2017. Plain language documents still comprised only a small fraction of government services and materials,[Note13: Midterm report, p. 22,

http://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Finland_Progress-Report_2015-2017_for-public-comment.pdf ] and the implementation of aligning government websites to be compatible with assistive devices for citizens with disabilities had not yet begun. For more details, see the Midterm Progress Report.

End-of-term: Substantial

As stated in the midterm report, many of the commitments lack measurable targets and specificity. According to a CSO representative, changing protocols within civil service has been a slow process, but the commitment milestones have been advanced during the second half of the implementation period.[Note14: Eero Rämö, former Chairperson of the Board of the Finnish Youth Cooperation – Allianssi, 4 September 2017.] The government was to conduct an internal survey at the beginning and end of the implementation period, assessing the progress of each activity. The end-of-term government self-assessment report states that such a survey was conducted in September 2015.[Note15: Finland’s End-of-term self-assessment report, 2015–2017 (in Finnish), p. 2,
http://avoinhallinto.fi/assets/files/2017/10/Avoin-hallinto_-khoitsearviointiraportti-2017.pdf] However, the resultant report from the survey was not published until 14 February 2018, well after the implementation period concluded in July 2017.[Note16: “Survey results on implementation of open government.” Avoinhallinto.fi, 14 February 2018,

https://avoinhallinto.fi/kyselytietoa-avoimen-hallinnon-toimeenpanosta/ ] There is no publicly available evidence to indicate an end-of-term survey was conducted and published.

1.1 Clear Structures and Processes

The implementation of the Government Program and its key projects for 2015–2019,[Note17: Toimintasuunnitelma strategisen hallitusohjelman kärkihankkeiden ja reformien toimeenpanemiseksi 2015-2019, http://valtioneuvosto.fi/documents/10184/321857/Toimintasuunnitelma+strategisen+hallitusohjelman+k%C3%A4rkihankkeiden+ja+reformien+toimeenpanemiseksi+2015%E2%80%932019,+p%C3%A4ivitys+2016/305dcb6c-c9f8-4aca-bbbb-1018cd7a1fd8 ] and later for 2017–2019 were published online.[Note18: Ratkaisujen Suomi: Puolivälin tarkistus. Hallituksen toimintasuunnitelma vuosille 2017-2019,

http://vnk.fi/documents/10616/4610410/Toimintasuunnitelma+H_5_2017+280417.pdf ] Both publications use visualizations to describe complex government structures and processes. While this can help visualize and present information in a more understandable way, it is unclear whether citizens find these changes useful or if it has improved their ability to access government information. According to the government’s end-of-term self-assessment report, published after the end of the implementation period, 19 percent of respondents to customer surveys assessed that the work done on clarifying structures and processes in their organization had been impactful, yet 74 percent felt it had little to no impact.[Note19: “Survey results on implementation of open government.” Avoinhallinto.fi, 14 February 2018,

https://avoinhallinto.fi/assets/files/2018/02/Avoimen-hallinnon-kysely-2017.pdf ]

1.2 Official Parlance Clearer

Collaboration between ministries, agencies and CSOs on clarifying official parlance continued after the midterm, and an informal Official Parlance Working Group had been established.[Note20: The unofficial group consists of the OGP team, the Institute for the Languages of Finland, the PM’s office, the Social Insurance Institution (Kela), the National Center for Plain Language (Selkokeskus), the Union of Journalists, and the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities (Kuntaliitto). Source: Johanna Nurmi, Ministry of Finance, 16 August 2017.] However, lists of clear and plain language materials published since the midterm have not been outlined in the self-assessment report,[Note21: Finland’s End-of-term self-assessment report, 2015–2017 (in Finnish), p. 6,
http://avoinhallinto.fi/assets/files/2017/10/Avoin-hallinto_-khoitsearviointiraportti-2017.pdf] and the IRM researcher found no evidence of an official priority list for such materials. According to a representative of the Ministry of Finance, the lack of plain language experts is hindering fulfillment of this commitment.[Note22: Interview with Johanna Nurmi, Ministry of Finance, 16 August 2017.]

1.3. Material in plain language

The seven, plain language material pilot projects launched as part of the clear administrative language campaign have produced some results. The Ministry of Transport's new Road Traffic Act proposal was published for public comment in February 2017, and it was presented to the government on 23 November 2017.[Note23: Eduskunta: Tieliikennelain kokonaisuudistus, 1.12.2017, https://www.eduskunta.fi/FI/tietoaeduskunnasta/kirjasto/aineistot/kotimainen_oikeus/LATI/Sivut/tieliikennelain-kokonaisuudistus.aspx ] The Finnish Transport Safety Agency renewed its outgoing automatic correspondence, such as documents pertaining to driving licenses and vehicle registration.[Note24: ”Kehityspäällikkö Elina Uotila edistää Trafissa hyvää kieltä.” Kotus, 2015,

https://www.kotus.fi/kielitieto/virkakieli/yleista_virkakielesta/virkakielityota_virastoissa/liikenteen_turvallisuusvirasto_(trafi) ] The textual information on Kela's Youth Disability Allowance was made clearer in order to better support the allowance application process. The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) added graphics to its website in order to clarify the processes of applying for licenses and citizenship. The Finnish Tax Administration renewed its webpages aimed at budding entrepreneurs. The City of Vaasa clarified texts produced by the city council, organized clear administrative language trainings for civil servants, and renewed administration, decision-making and city planning vocabulary. The City of Tampere improved its instructions for drafting and produced plain language materials with the Pirkanmaa Health Care District.[Note25: Kotus: Virkakielityötä virastoissa, https://www.kotus.fi/kielitieto/virkakieli/yleista_virkakielesta/virkakielityota_virastoissa ] Consequently, the campaign produced clear language experience cards[Note26: Avoimen hallinnon kokemuskortit: ”Asiakaslähtöistä, selkeää virkakieltä.” http://vm.fi/documents/10623/2866950/Avoin+hallinto_-kokemuskortti_selke%C3%A4+virkakieli.pdf/760992d7-d11c-43e7-b318-ac58caac46b8 ] and guidelines for civil servants.[Note27: Hyvin suunniteltu – puoliksi kirjoitettu. Apuneuvoja tekstintekijälle. Valtioneuvoston kanslian julkaisusarja, 6/2016,

http://verkkojulkaisut.vm.fi/zine/92/cover ]

1.4. Visualizations Used

An Open Government Support Package was created during spring 2017. It contains visual information on open government principles, clear administration and communication, democracy and participation tools, as well as open data.[Note28: Open Government Support Package, http://avoinhallinto.fi/tukipaketti/] Other visualizations produced after the midterm include:

· The Tutki Budjettia service[Note29: Examine the Budget service, http://www.tutkibudjettia.fi/] (Examine the Budget), published on 22 September 2016. The service was part of an undertaking by the Ministry of Finance aimed at opening government budget data and making it easier to use. The “Budget Belongs to All” hackathon was a success according to a representative of the Ministry of Finance, although it was reduced to a one-day event.[Note30: Interview with Virpi Einola-Pekkinen, Ministry of Finance, 8 December 2017.] The website of the hackathon is down at the time of writing the report.[Note31: http://kaikkienbudjetti.fi/ ]

· The government and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health published visual information on the Health and Social Services reform 2020 on 24 December 2016.[Note32: Health and Social Services reform, http://alueuudistus.fi/en/what-is-the-health-and-social-services-reform-]

· The service Tutkihankintoja.fi[Note33: State spending information service, https://tutkihankintoja.fi/ ], where state spending information (goods, supplies and services) was made available in visual format was published on 4 September 2017 by the government’s central purchasing body.[Note34: Hansel Ltd., https://www.hansel.fi/en/ ]

1.5. Webpages Compatible with Assistive Devices

On 31 January 2017, the Ministry of Finance appointed a working group for the preparation of national implementation of the accessibility directive. The main goals of the directive are to improve the quality of digital services, create a uniform base minimum demands for the accessibility of e-services in the public administration, as well as further equal opportunities for citizens to fully participate in the digital society.[Note35: The accessibility directive, http://vm.fi/saavutettavuusdirektiivi] At the time of writing the report, there was no evidence of improved accessibility to government websites. The end-of-term self-assessment report states that preparations are still in progress, thus the commitment’s completion level and impact remains limited. The milestone was carried forward to the next action plan.

1.6. Services Easily Found Online

The new Suomi.fi Web Service has been published and developed since the writing of the midterm report. According to a representative of the Population Register Center (PRC), the service has mostly replaced the old portal, with approximately 600 organizations having joined the databank (including all municipalities and almost all governmental agencies in Finland). The service has gained more than 150,000 unique visitors per month.[Note36: Interview with Marko Latvanen, Population Register Center, 15 December 2017.] On 7 September 2017, the Suomi.fi provincial tour set off to spread information about the portal among citizens,[Note37: The Suomi.fi provincial tour, https://twitter.com/VM_MariaNikkila/status/905730000397238274] which reportedly raised awareness of the service by 10 percentage points.[Note38: A survey was conducted to measure awareness about Suomi.fi in May-June 2017 and again in November 2017 (after the provincial tour). Awareness is now at 44 percent. Interview with Marko Latvanen, Population Register Center, 15 December 2017.] Nevertheless, the commitment to provide the public with access to services online remains aspirational, is not specific enough to measure, and is of unclear relevance to OGP values.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

In Finland, many citizens have found government information on how to access and receive public services confusing and difficult to use. This commitment sought to improve the clarity of official documents to enhance service delivery. Article 9 of the Finnish Administrative Procedure Act (Hallintolaki) states that authorities must use professional, clear, and understandable language,[Note39: Hallintolaki 6.6.2003/434, https://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/ajantasa/2003/20030434 ] thus issues with administrative language had been addressed even before the OGP process. For instance, the Finnish Transport Safety Agency launched a Good Language project in autumn 2014, which aimed to simplify outgoing official correspondence and organize plain language training for staff.[Note40: “Kehityspäällikkö Elina Uotila edistää Trafissa hyvää kieltä.” Kotus, September 2015, https://www.kotus.fi/kielitieto/virkakieli/yleista_virkakielesta/virkakielityota_virastoissa/liikenteen_turvallisuusvirasto_(trafi) ] According to a representative of the Ministry of Finance, including a commitment to increasing clear administrative language has further strengthened the process as a democracy tool.[Note41: Interview with Johanna Nurmi, Ministry of Finance, 16 August 2017,
“Miten yhdenvertaisuus saavutetaan digipalveluissa? Saavutettavuusdirektiivi.” Markus Rahkola, Ministry of Finance, 30 May 2017, http://vm.fi/documents/10623/4871483/Saavutettavuusdirektiivi+yhteisseminaarissa/4ae299a3-2408-4ef2-8f3f-ebdc782dfde5 ]

This commitment has brought focus to improving understanding of government processes and decision making among citizens, and especially vulnerable groups, such as young persons with disabilities, and migrants. For example, Migri produced visual graphics explaining the process of seeking asylum in Finland,[Note42: Migri: Applying for asylum, http://www.migri.fi/asylum_in_finland/applying_for_asylum ]and Kela published print leaflets with information about applying for allowances in plain language.[Note43: “Selkoesitteet ovat osa hyvää asiakaspalvelua.” Kotus, 2015,

https://www.kotus.fi/kielitieto/virkakieli/yleista_virkakielesta/virkakielityota_virastoissa/kela/selkoesitteet ] The Suomi.fi Web Service has collected e-government resources under one databank, but it still needs improvement in providing as comprehensive information as municipalities’ own websites, as well as in the efficiency of its search function.[Note44: Interview with Marko Latvanen, Population Register Center, 15 December 2017.]

In terms of increasing accessibility for all citizens and those with disabilities in particular, the commitment has produced limited results. Several information events on the accessibility directive have been organized during 2017,[Note45: ”Saavutettavuusdirektiivin valmistelu etenee, ilmoittaudu mukaan infotilaisuuksiin.” Saavutettava.fi, 17 May 2017,

http://saavutettava.fi/2017/05/17/saavutettavuusdirektiivin-valmistelu-etenee-ilmoittaudu-mukaan-infotilaisuuksiin/ ] and the estimated transition period for applying its requirements to government webpages is estimated at around four years.[Note46: Finland’s End-of-term self-assessment report, 2015–2017 (in Finnish), p. 5,
http://avoinhallinto.fi/assets/files/2017/10/Avoin-hallinto_-khoitsearviointiraportti-2017.pdf ] The government’s end-of-term self-assessment report does not report on any further progress on this issue.

As projected by Open Knowledge Finland,[Note47: Midterm report, p. 23, http://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Finland_Progress-Report_2015-2017_for-public-comment.pdf] the growing priority for creating interactive visualizations has been actively addressed in the next action plan. The Tutki Hankintoja service aims at improving Finland’s global open data index, and according to a representative from the Ministry of Finance, it has been a groundbreaking and important step toward open access and government transparency.[Note48: “Finland is one of the pioneering countries that publicize state procurement information on such a scale.” Anu Vehviläinen, Ministry of Finance, 4 September 2017, http://vm.fi/artikkeli/-/asset_publisher/mita-valtio-hankkii-ja-kenelta- ]

Carried Forward?

Several aspects of this commitment were carried forward in the third Finnish OGP action plan, such as clarifying government reform and service descriptions (including visualizations), training regional administrations in open government principles, and ensuring knowledge of access to information legislation within the civil servants’ network. While the government’s commitment to developing the accessibility to information is laudable, the commitment could go further to concretely define ambitious steps for improvement. The IRM researcher strongly advises the government to include specific, measurable solutions for achieving clear language and government processes, such as the creation of priority lists for clear language materials or the completion of the unified national accessibility standards. Additionally, though the third plan has outlined several aspects of access to information as its focal points, it still lacks clear targets for the type and amount of information to improve, and a system for tracking progress and engaging citizens along the way.


Finland's Commitments

  1. Improving understandability and inlcusion of government information

    FI0030, 2019, Capacity Building

  2. Open Government Strategy

    FI0031, 2019, Capacity Building

  3. Register of government deicsion-making

    FI0032, 2019, Conflicts of Interest

  4. Open data and AI policy

    FI0033, 2019, E-Government

  5. Supporting Everyone’s Possibility to Participate.

    FI0023, 2017, E-Government

  6. Clear Government Reforms and Services

    FI0024, 2017, Fiscal Transparency

  7. Access to Information on Incorporated Public Services

    FI0025, 2017, Fiscal Transparency

  8. Access to Information Knowledge in the Public Administration

    FI0026, 2017, Capacity Building

  9. Publishing State Procurement Data to Citizens

    FI0027, 2017, E-Government

  10. Regional Reform Information

    FI0028, 2017, Infrastructure & Transport

  11. Training Regional Administration in Open Government Principles

    FI0029, 2017, Capacity Building

  12. Clear Administration

    FI0019, 2015, E-Government

  13. Government as an Enabler

    FI0020, 2015, E-Government

  14. Open Procedures

    FI0021, 2015, E-Government

  15. Engage Children, Youth, Elderly

    FI0022, 2015, Public Participation

  16. Enhancing the Openness of Preparatory Processes

    FI0001, 2013, E-Government

  17. Emphasizing Dialogue Skills in the Job Descriptions of Civil Servants

    FI0002, 2013, Capacity Building

  18. Strengthening Proactive Publishing and Communication

    FI0003, 2013, Capacity Building

  19. Promoting Participatory Budgeting

    FI0004, 2013, Participation in Budget Processes

  20. Increasing Openness and Customer Orientation in ICT and e-Services Development

    FI0005, 2013, E-Government

  21. Increasing the Number of Open and Online Meetings

    FI0006, 2013, E-Government

  22. Standard Language Titles and Resumes Will Be Drafted of the Government Proposals.

    FI0007, 2013, Capacity Building

  23. Visualization of Decisions

    FI0008, 2013, E-Government

  24. Training Will Be Organised for Civil Servants in Use of Clear Language and Plain Language In- Cluding Committing to Use of Terms Already Known.

    FI0009, 2013, Capacity Building

  25. The Comprehensibility of the Texts Produced by Public Administration Will Be Tested To- Gether with Citizens and Service Users.

    FI0010, 2013, Capacity Building

  26. Standardizing and Clarifying the Terms and Concepts Used in Public Administration and Ser- Vice Production.

    FI0011, 2013, Capacity Building

  27. The Comprehensibility of Customer Letters and Decisions Will Be Enhanced, Especially When Using Standard Texts.

    FI0012, 2013, Capacity Building

  28. Opening and Publishing New Data and Changing Existing Open Data Into a Machine- Readable Form.

    FI0013, 2013, Open Data

  29. Clear Terms for Use of for Open Data and Knowledge

    FI0014, 2013, Open Data

  30. Strengthening Skills Needed to Understand Combining Privacy and Open Data and Strength- Ening the Citizen’S Right to His/Her Own Personal Information “The Right to Be Anonymous”

    FI0015, 2013, Capacity Building

  31. Tearing Down Barriers of Action of the Civil Society

    FI0016, 2013, Capacity Building

  32. The Proactive Presence and Accessibility of Civil Servants

    FI0017, 2013, Capacity Building

  33. Providing Tools and Training to Organizations

    FI0018, 2013, Capacity Building