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Minister Timo Harakka: Data is an inexhaustible natural resource, even in a low-emission future

Ministry of Transport and Communications
20.9.2021 13.33 | Published in English on 23.9.2021 at 9.40
Press release

Addressing the Transport and Communications Forum on 20 September 2021, Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka insisted that Finland is ideally positioned to succeed in a climate-neutral Europe: "We understand the power of partnership, and we have the opportunity and even the duty to apply the tools at our disposal."

Minister Harakka raised four themes in his speech: the use of data, its associated ground rules, the importance of good regulation, and managing the challenges arising from climate change.

We have transitioned to an era of data capitalism, but we can influence its ground rules

Minister Harakka regards data as a new production factor. He views use of this factor through the idea of data capitalism, meaning the ownership and management of information, and the associated power struggles. Even though large platform companies are the leading players at the moment, the Minister does not view this as an inevitable state of affairs.

"Data is an inexhaustible natural resource, so we need an international regulatory framework for owning, sharing and exploiting personal data. The current focus is on data protection, but this is only an absolute minimum," Minister Harakka observed.

As examples of such governing systems, Minister Harakka highlighted the upcoming EU Data Governance Act and the MyData initiatives that have long been promoted by Finland, which give individuals tools for using their own personal data.

Smart regulation and expertise are new production factors

Minister Harakka identified expertise together with good regulation and governance as modern production factors alongside data. Expertise is the factor that enables all other resources, and accordingly requires investment. With regard to regulation, the Minister stressed the required quality. The policy that steers an economy must do so correctly, with vision, and in a way that fosters new opportunities.

"Wise regulation and a frank dialogue between the public and the private sectors have stealthily constructed a way of doing things in Finland that enables big things to happen with minimum commotion," Minister Harakka explained.

Some examples of such collaboration in the field of transport include the National Transport System Plan, the three-direction rail design companies and the land use, housing and transport agreements of major cities for years to come. With respect to communications, the Minister called attention to regulation of 5G networks, highlighting the newly appointed ministerial working group responsible for guiding development of the digital transformation, data economy and public administration.

Good regulation and co-operation provide predictability and reliability, enabling optimally efficient use of limited resources.

On the other hand, Minister Harakka feels that there is work to be done in cyber security:

"We even issued two Government decisions-in-principle in the spring, focusing on cyber threats, meaning shielding ourselves against attacks, and on ways in which the Finnish cyber industry could gain a firmer foothold in a market worth hundreds of billions of euros. After failing to secure sufficient associated investment in the budget for next year, we are continuing to spread the word.

Cyber security must be considered and funded from the very outset as society becomes increasingly dependent on data-driven critical industries such as electrical and energy networks. The critical networks of society must be secure by design," Minister Harakka stressed.

Breaking free of dependence on fossil fuels

Minister Harakka moved on to comment on climate change, noting that data provides a route to a post-oil fossil-free future. The Minister found it impossible to imagine us achieving our climate goals without digitalisation and the application of big data. The Ministry of Transport and Communications has accordingly prepared a climate strategy for the ICT sector.

Better energy efficiency in the ICT sector and a circular economy in hardware will reduce the footprint of data technology. Greater digitalisation of all other activities would reduce it still further. Digitalising logistics, for example, would enhance efficiency by enabling haulage of the same volume of goods with less physical traffic.

The Minister also views the electrification of transport as a climate measure, as we are in a position to realise a domestic ecological and ethical value chain extending from raw materials to products. Minister Timo Harakka believes that transport has taken a major step forward in a way that will deliver growth, jobs and wellbeing, and that is also socially equitable.

On the forum theme of climate change and evolving connections and services

Climate change has a powerful impact on transport and communications. The theme of the Transport and Communications Forum was climate change and the evolving needs and services of transport and communications that it brings.

In addition to the address by Minister Harakka, the forum included a conversation with Permanent Secretary Minna Kivimäki of the Ministry of Transport and Communications, and an exchange of views with Jussi Kaurola, Director General of the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Kirsi Karlamaa, Director-General of the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency - Traficom, and Kari Wihlman, Director-General of the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency. The forum concluded with a dialogue between Finnish Meteorological Institute specialists Jaakko Nuottokari and Hannele Korhonen concerning how to prepare for a changing climate in the transport and communications sector.

Transport and Communications Forum live webcast

The Transport and Communications Forum is an invitation seminar organised by the Ministry of Transport and Communications annually for opinion leaders in the transport and communications sector. Jointly arranged by the Ministry and the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency - Traficom and the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency, the 2021 forum was held as an entirely online event.

A live webcast of the event was hosted on its website between 1 pm and 3 pm and a recording of the event was released on the YouTube account of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The event was interpreted into Finnish sign language.

A live discussion channel was provided for online viewers during the forum. Use hashtag #LVF2021 to join the discussion on Twitter.

Inquiries:

Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka, requests for interviews: Marjo Jäppinen, Head of Communications, tel. +358 40 080 4730, marjo.jappinen(at)gov.fi

Speech by Minister Timo Harakka at the Transport and Communications Forum on 20 September 2021 (in Finnish)
Recording of the event on the Ministry of Transport and Communications YouTube account (in Finnish)

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