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Finland

Clear Government Reforms and Services (FI0024)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Finland National Action Plan 2017-2019

Action Plan Cycle: 2017

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: NA

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Fiscal Openness, Publication of Budget/Fiscal Information

IRM Review

IRM Report: Finland Design Report 2017–2019

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: No

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Providing clearer and easy to understand information about the on-going preparatory work and the services provided by government. Using information and visualization models that have been proven to be clear and accessible. Paying attention to multichannel information, clear language and plain language.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

2. Taking care that there are clear descriptions of the reforms and services being prepared by the government

 

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:

“Providing clearer and easy to understand information about the on-going preparatory work and the services provided by government. Using information and visualization models that have been proven to be clear and accessible.

Paying attention to multichannel information, clear language and plain language.”[Note : Finland National Action Plan 2017-2019 (in English), https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/finland-national-action-plan-2017-2019-all-languages/.]

Start Date: Not identified             

End Date: Not identified

Context and Objectives

Information on government services and projects is often written in administrative jargon and can be difficult for the public to understand. During recent years, the Finnish government has paid special attention to the transfer and publication of information on a national scale. The National Architecture for Digital Services program led by the Ministry of Finance between 2014 and 2017 aimed to improve shared information, openness of public administration, and online services.[Note : National Architecture for Digital Services,
https://vm.fi/en/national-architecture-for-digital-services.]
The focus of this commitment is to make information on the preparatory work on legislation and governance, along with government-provided services, available on a variety of websites and platforms. This commitment further seeks to make this information available in varying formats to reach all targeted audiences. The commitment also plans to make information available in clear and plain language to be understandable to all, thus making it relevant to the OGP value of access to information.

During the consultation period of the action plan, several CSOs commented on the need for more concrete and measurable activities for this commitment.[Note : Summary of comments on Finland’s third national action plan submitted during the consultation period 2 February –3 March 2017, p. 21-30, https://avoinhallinto.fi/assets/files/2017/06/Lausuntoyhteenveto-III-toimintaohjelma.pdf. Sari Vapaavuori, Head of Development, Valli - The Finnish Union for Senior Services. Email interview 22.02.2019.] According to a representative of the Arts Promotion Centre Finland, the first step to improving the commitment would be to define what “clarity” means in practice.[Note : Minna Sirnö, Head of Arts Promotion Centre Finland, consultation 3.3.2017, p. 24, https://avoinhallinto.fi/assets/files/2017/06/Lausuntoyhteenveto-III-toimintaohjelma.pdf.] Similarly, the expression “paying attention” is vague, non-measurable, and lacks a responsible institution.[Note : Sari Vapaavuori, Head of Development, Valli - The Finnish Union for Senior Services. Email interview 22.02.2019.] Continuing from the recommendations of Finland’s previous action plan’s IRM end-of-term report,[Note : Finland End-of-Term Report 2015-2017, p. 21, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Finland_EOT_Report_2015-2017_EN_for-public-comment.pdf.] the government’s online register for public projects (Valtioneuvoston hankeikkuna) could be further developed as a platform for publication, starting within the preparatory phase of government projects. In addition to providing an opportunity to follow the decision-making process, the platform could be updated with consultation links and information on participation possibilities.[Note : Joonas Pekkanen, Founder and Coordinator of Open Ministry, Finland, consultation 16.2.2017, p. 20, https://avoinhallinto.fi/assets/files/2017/06/Lausuntoyhteenveto-III-toimintaohjelma.pdf.] Without more concrete implementation measurements, it is difficult to code the program’s potential to improve access to information beyond “minor”.

Next steps

Due to major governance reforms, such as the Health, Social Services and Regional Government Reform,[Note : For more information on the regional government, health and social services reform, please see
https://alueuudistus.fi/en/frontpage.]
the commitment’s aim to clarify and diversify information on government activities and services is timely. However, the commitment as written gives no indication as to how the most crucial information is to be selected, which information and visualisation models would be used and how have they been tested, and whether there would be any concrete outputs in plain and clear language on a variety of channels.

The IRM researcher recommends that the government consults with civil society on priority information to be published in clear and plain language and commits to publishing this information by the end of the action plan period. Additionally, the commitment could aim to improve early-stage civic participation in government decision-making. It could be extended over several action plans, including several milestones:

  • The creation of a priority list for the need of clear and plain language information on preparatory work and services, starting with a process description for implementation;[Note : Institute for the Languages of Finland, ibid., p. 25.]
  • The selection of a variety of channels together with relevant CSOs, including a deadline for publication of the aforementioned information;
  • The development of consultation and collaboration methods for government preparatory work together with relevant CSOs;
  • The testing of consultation and collaboration methods and the documentation of best practices in this area.


IRM End of Term Status Summary

2. Taking care that there are clear descriptions of the reforms and services being prepared by the government.

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:

“Providing clearer and easy to understand information about the on-going preparatory work and the services provided by government. Using information and visualization models that have been proven to be clear and accessible.

Paying attention to multichannel information, clear language and plain language.” [11]

Start Date: Not identified

End Date: Not identified

IRM Design Report Assessment IRM Implementation Report Assessment
  • Verifiable: No
  • Relevant: Access to information
  • Potential impact: Minor
  • Completion: Complete
  • Did it Open Government? Marginal
  • This commitment aimed to make information on government services and preparatory work more accessible through increased attention to clear and plain language, and multichannel distribution. According to a study by the Finnish Centre for Easy Language (2019), 11-14 percent of Finns need plain language in order to deal with authorities. [12] This figure includes immigrants and language learners, elderly citizens and memory loss patients, persons with disabilities, and persons who are socially marginalized. [13]

    During the implementation period, the Finnish government created and promoted training tools and e-learning possibilities for civil servants to improve the accessibility of government information, along with a government website with information on web content accessibility. [14] By November 2019, 856 individuals had completed an e-learning course on clear government language and the government website on web content accessibility had attracted more than 15,000 unique users. [15] Therefore, this commitment is considered complete, although the commitment text lacked specific indicators to measure implementation.

    Despite the vague wording of the commitment, the Finnish government carried out concrete measures to improve the accessibility of government information. According to the Development Director of the Finnish Centre for Easy Language, government practice in this policy area has improved during the implementation period. [16] In particular, the publication of a plain language website for the government branch that administers and provides social security benefits for all residents of Finland (Kela) marks a significant improvement. [17] However, according to the interviewee, the use of plain language is still inadequate to meet the requirements of the persons who need it, as long as these persons are not able to obtain information on decisions directly impacting them in plain language (e.g. outcomes of benefit applications). [18] While the Finnish government has provided more tools for civil servants to improve the accessibility of government-provided information, improvements depend upon the proactivity of individual government agencies. [19]

    By implementing this commitment, the Finnish government improved the quality of government-provided information, its accessibility, and the channels to disclose it. The implementation of this commitment marks a marginal but notable step forward in government openness.

    [11] Open Government III Action Plan (2017-2019): Finland, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Finland_NAP_2017-2019_EN.pdf [12] Markku Juusola, ”Selkokielen tarvearvio 2019”, Finnish Centre for Easy Language, The Finnish Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (FAIDD), 2019, https://selkokeskus.fi/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Tarvearvio-2019.pdf [13] Markku Juusola, ”Selkokielen tarvearvio 2019”, Finnish Centre for Easy Language, The Finnish Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (FAIDD), 2019, https://selkokeskus.fi/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Tarvearvio-2019.pdf [14] Avoimen hallinnon III toimintaohjelman toimeenpano: Huolehditaan siitä, että hallinnon valmistelemista uudistuksista ja palveluista on saatava selkeä ja ymmärrettävä kuvaus, Ministry of Finance, https://avoinhallinto.fi/toimeenpano/huolehditaan-siita-etta-hallinnon-valmistelemista-uudistuksista-ja-palveluista-on-saatava-selkea-ja-ymmarrettava-kuvaus/ [15] Johanna Nurmi, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Finance (Finland), 6 February 2019. [16] Leealaura Leskelä, Development Manager, Finnish Centre for Easy Language, 22 October 2019. [17] Kela, https://www.kela.fi/web/selkosuomi; Leealaura Leskelä, Development Manager, Finnish Centre for Easy Language, 22 October 2019. [18] Leealaura Leskelä, Development Manager, Finnish Centre for Easy Language, 22 October 2019. [19] Leealaura Leskelä, Development Manager, Finnish Centre for Easy Language, 22 October 2019.

    Commitments

    Open Government Partnership