Minister Harakka: Climate recovery and everyday digitalisation after an exceptional spring
The Ministry of Transport and Communications is preparing a two-point futures programme to deal with the broader consequences of the COVID-19 crisis and make use of the lessons learned from the exceptional spring going forward. The programme will focus on climate issues and digitalisation.
"The first theme in the futures programme is climate recovery in transport, which will support employment in the short term and strengthen sustainable growth in the future. At the heart of this point is the largest rail transport package in our country's history, which is included in the recovery and investment package, in land use, housing and transport agreements and in rail transport project companies," Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka summarises.
"The second point concerns exploiting the digital advancements made in the spring and strengthening the development that has now begun. The digital leap forward will be seen in our daily lives as an increase in the use of digital services, a rethinking of mobility and a positive impact on the climate," Minister Harakka says.
According to Harakka, the EU recovery package provides incentives and tools for Europe-wide climate action.
"Finland is already moving forward on this path. We have received EU funding for rail transport projects, and our fourth supplementary budget for 2020 includes significant investments in rail and tram transport. Much more funding has also been allocated for improvements to walking and cycling infrastructure in municipalities," says Harakka.
Along with the infrastructure investments, the Ministry is currently carrying out a number of projects aiming to create a lower-carbon future. On the transport side, these include drawing up a roadmap for fossil-free traffic and a 12-year national transport system plan, as well as a programme for the promotion of walking and cycling.
Everyday digitalisation an increasingly important part of life during the COVID-19 spring
According to Minister Harakka, one of the major changes brought on by the COVID-19 spring has been an acceleration in digitalisation. To overcome the challenges posed by the virus, people naturally switched to online services, taking an agile approach to distance learning, online purchases and other remote services.
According to preliminary data from the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, the number of calls and the use of mobile data increased by up to 30 per cent during this time. Harakka believes that remote services will continue to be used alongside physical ones.
"It is unlikely that we will return to the same practices as before the crisis. Some of the new operating models will remain permanent thanks to improved digital capabilities and the positive experiences gained during the crisis. In the future, remote work in particular will increasingly be seen as normal work," says Harakka.
Evidence of a long-term change can be seen in the fact that, in a recent survey, around 40 per cent of respondents estimated that they would be unlikely to return to traditional office work even if this were possible. The majority of respondents were satisfied with remote work and felt they were capable of working effectively from home.
At the beginning of May, the Ministry of Transport and Communications appointed a working group to assess the effects of the digitalisation process during the state of emergency caused by the coronavirus and to prepare proposals for speeding up recovery from the exceptional situation.
"The task of the working group is to ensure that the experiences gained from the spring become a central part of the aftercare following the COVID-19 crisis," says Harakka.
Inquiries and requests for interviews with the Minister:
Matti Sadeniemi, Special Adviser, tel. +358 40 586 7234