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Keynote speech by Prime Minister Sanna Marin at high-level seminar on societal impact of digitalisation in Tokyo on 11 May 2022

Government Communications Department
Publication date 11.5.2022 7.00
Pääministeri Sanna Marin pitämässä puhetta Tokion yliopistolla. Hänen sivuillaan ovat Japanin ja Suomen liput.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin gave a keynote speech at a high-level seminar exploring the impacts of digitalisation on society in Tokyo on 11 May 2022. Prime Minister’s speech to be checked against delivery.

Dear Vice-Minister Takeuchi, Dr Fujii,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Finland and Japan are two highly developed countries. Today, we are among the most modern societies in the world and serve as examples to others in many areas.

We are resilient and able to succeed in the midst of rapid change. Our societies have been tested. Our past has not been easy.

We are now facing a change of a totally new speed and scale. It is the digital change. 

Both Japan and Finland have world-class digital skills. This is an asset as the world becomes truly digital. No area of our societies will be spared. This will be for the great benefit of our citizens.

However, our security environment has now also changed. Russia’s war against Ukraine means that the world will look very different in a few years. 

The world should condemn Russia’s aggression in the strongest possible terms. As part of the European Union, Finland has cooperated closely with Japan on sanctions against Russia. We should do even more to stop the war. 

In Finland, we will soon draw conclusions from Russia’s aggression. As you know, Finland is about to decide on its possible application to become member in Nato. 

The digital change means, that our societies will be even more exposed than they are today. Russia and others will try to expand their sphere of influence by using every possible instrument at their disposal. Unfortunately, new technologies also serve dictators, authoritarian regimes and criminal interests.  Our resilience will be tested in the future even more than today.

We must move closer to those partners whom we trust. We have deep trust in Japan. When our companies cooperate, we can trust that they will innovate, develop and sell technologies for the good. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This seminar could not have come at a better time. I am proud of the team of companies that travelled with me to Japan. They represent state-of-the-art expertise in digital skills, 5G and 6G, super- and quantum computing, and several other fields. 

The data economy, artificial intelligence and the platform economy are megatrends. Japan and Finland can drive these trends globally. For this to happen, we need to match our skills and knowledge with one another. This is an important reason for my first ever visit to Japan.

The digital change will impact our societies in ways we cannot yet predict. We need solid principles and aims to guide us.  

First: Trust is where everything starts. 

As the world becomes more digital, we need to have trust in digital services. Maintaining the trust of the public is important when dealing with sensitive data.  This is a success factor in developing efficient digital services and helps in creating a good business environment for innovations and investments.

Second: equality. This is how we have built trust during difficult times. We needed everyone on board in our national efforts to survive. 

The digital change can lift us all as a society. New technologies can finally help to empower us all.

Unfortunately, the digital divide still exists. The digital change needs to be fair and socially just. 

New technologies can be used for equality. They can bring opportunities for social inclusion. This means that services must be available and accessible to all citizens, and must be developed in an inclusive way.

The digital divide also exists between genders. It prevents many women and girls from making their voice heard in the digital world, online, or in the development of new technologies. 

The digital world must be a safe environment. We must fight online and tech-facilitated gender-based violence and discrimination.

We cannot afford this as societies today, and even less so tomorrow. The world will be ever more digital. We need everyone on board, in Finland and elsewhere.

These are the reasons Finland is leading the Action Coalition focused on technology and innovation in the UN Women’s Generation Equality campaign. 

Third, a more human-centric approach is needed now more than ever. 

Finland is a strong advocate for a human-centric approach in the digital change. A successful data economy needs common rules, and the rules need to work fairly. 

User-friendliness is a key. Users of different genders, different ages, and with different backgrounds have different needs for technologies. The question is: How do we make sure that the benefits of digital change are useful for all?

A successful data economy should not be a game of “winner takes all”. Instead, it should offer all players the opportunity to take their share of the wins. 

The digital change must be focused on welfare and real service needs, not on the technology itself.

It is very important to improve companies’ and citizens’ rights to access and manage their own data. 

Governments need to review their practices. Data should be brought out of silos and made easily accessible. Thanks to the digital change, the public and private sectors as well as research institutions have a chance to cooperate in new ways. 

Fourth, the digital change must boost the green transition

The digital change can be a tool for a nature-positive green economy. 

Global challenges are linked. Our world is becoming more and more interdependent. Using data, digital technologies, innovation and foresight helps us track these changes. Our decisions can be truly science- and data-based. 

The ICT sector provides great opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For example, intelligent solutions are improving efficiency and reducing emissions in energy production and transport.

We can promote sustainable digitalisation with pragmatic measures. For example, Finland is home to some of the most energy efficient data centres in the world.

Fifth, let me reiterate the importance of trusted partners. We must remain solid and faithful to our common values in the midst of change.

Japan shares the same values as Finland. We need to use data and new technologies in a secure and ethical way. There is no other choice. The digital change must help us promote our common values, not the other way round. 

When developing global standards and regulations, cooperation between likeminded countries is critical. 

This cooperation will be very important in the development of 5G and 6G, to give an example. 

Both Finland and Japan have a long tradition in research in wireless mobile technologies. This is an example of an area where we have already worked together. 

Our research communities have also announced their joint plans and willingness to enhance cooperation. In the future, cooperation and communication may be even easier. 

Today, Finnish 6G actors, from both academia and industry, will launch a new Finnish 6G coalition called 6G Finland. 

Today’s panel discussion will be a good opportunity to further strengthen our cooperation.

I would like to conclude by saying that digitalisation and technologies such as artificial intelligence have a direct impact on our wellbeing. 

New technologies have an impact on how societies function. We need to make sure that digitalisation benefits people and does not work against them. I know that Finland and Japan will work together in order to achieve this.
The companies I have brought with me from Finland in the business delegation will be among the partners to be trusted as the world changes. 

Thank you for your attention.