Friday, December 10, 2010

I won, you win, we win

The summit started on Tuesday with an opening from Finnish Minister of Foreign Trade and Development, Paavo Väyrynen. Finnish independence day was on Monday 6th and Minister Väyrynen pointed out that Finland has many similarities with Africa.

Here's some background history for you: Finland was occupied by the Swedes and Russians before gaining the independence in 1917 after a bloody civil war. One legacy of these occupations are we still have Swedish as our second official language. After the Second World War Finland rapidly developed from an agricultural society to a contemporary information society. The company Nokia started out (or as some say 'hacked') making rubber boots in cold winter garages and evetually became the ubiquitous cell phone company we all know today. And our well-fare system was copied from our Scandinavian neighbours.

While we look in the future, it is good to respect and learn from history. While Finland has been building its information society, it has not emerged without some negative consequenses. Our systems are complex, 70% of IT work is spent on maintainance and some studies show that only 20% of Finnish companies gain competitive advantage from information technologies. Don't even ask about Finnish healthcare information systems. And now we are already exporting our education systems :)

So, Finland is not finished. Africa needs to show the next phase of information society as there are no existing legacy systems and or user habits to slow down the development. Cooperation, partnership, high potential, knowledge management, and inclusion has been the keyword emphasised during the conference which should help Europe's past and Africa's future. Problems are global and they are solved with win-win collaboration.

Tatu Lyytinen


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