Finland – a test bed…or a deathbed?
The meagre success Finns have had in the race for digital services is increasingly hampering the vitality of the national economy. The increasing success of international online stores in Finland means that capital is lost abroad.
“People in Finland have not even realised that added value is going somewhere else. People here have been in some way blind to the fact that the world around them is changing”, says Miki Kuusi, the founder of the annual Slush business startup event and the Wolt online store.
It seems that Finland has become the prisoner of its past success, and new developments taking place elsewhere are ignored here. Even though technological change has shaken cornerstone enterprises like Nokia, the forest industry and Stockmann, Finland’s stance has remained largely unchanged.
“But the Chinese will buy their food online, even if we Finns won’t”, Kuusi says.
New technology is altering structures in all industries. The most striking examples are the sharing services Uber and Airbnb. For instance, Airbnb has shaken the dominant position of large hotel chains – a position they have built up through investments worth millions.
Travellers have traditionally used familiar chains in exotic locations because they have wanted to spend their night in a familiar and trusted place. The familiar brand has guaranteed that expectations are met.
The Internet is changing the playing field of the online service, as consumers can now follow different occupants’ reviews of an apartment, its owner and the prices. Now, consumers have enough information to no longer need to rely on the information provided by a brand.
Finland needs to retake the pioneer position
Finland’s speed is being slowed down by a detrimental dichotomy that has arisen. On one hand, Finland has a group of internationally oriented young people, many of whom work in the field of technology. On the other hand there is the Finland of traditions, where Finland is seen as the best country for Finns.
The divided country should restore the belief in the ability of Finland to again be a pioneer country – as we have been several times in the past. Kuusi points out that we Finns surely must have some good qualities, as our country has so often been at the forefront of development.
“China is the world’s factory. Could Finland be the world’s brain, doing things that others will only do later on?”
Finland’s problem is that strong structures have been built in the country to support past success. Those structures support the established position, but not change. This concerns legislation and other regulations, among other things.
If we wish to be a pioneer in digitalisation, our legislation needs to reflect that.”