Digital services in Finland help families lead smoother lives

The Antila-Suurpää family from Helsinki leads a busy life. Digital services provide a lot of help in managing their daily routines and errands.

Let’s get one thing straight: the Antila-Suurpää family is not too keen on IT. At least the grown-ups, Petra Antila and Tuomas Suurpää, feel that way.

And yet, Petra has more than a dozen useful applications on her phone, providing access to electronic services.

She has two banking apps, two parking apps and two medical centre apps. She also has applications for public healthcare, communicating with her child’s football team, public transport, the library, museums, parcel tracking and many other purposes.

Although Petra and Tuomas say that they are not particularly well informed about the digital world, online services are a vital part of their family’s life at work, at school, during free time and when using public services. “Digital services are an inseparable part of our society,” Tuomas says.

All the info in one place

A pre-teen girl stands at a bus stop, looking at her mobile phone.

Frida often uses a journey planning app that helps her choose the most suitable public transport route. She purchases her ticket with the same app.Photo Vilja Harala

Where is the football match today? How do we get there? Petra asks these questions on a regular basis. The family’s youngest child, eight-year-old Frans, has football practice twice a week. During the competition season, he might also have one or two games a week.

Information about training, matches and venues is on the MyClub app, where Frans’s team have their own group. The app is a Finnish innovation used by sports clubs and families.

Petra goes on the app to tell the coach whether Frans can make it to the upcoming training sessions. She can also use it to contact other parents and the team managers, and to handle payment invoices for the fees.

The night before, she checks where the game is and how long the trip will take.

On the morning of a match day, Petra opens the app to check the football field’s location. MyClub leads her to a map that shows her the route from her front door to the venue.

“It makes things so easy,” she says. “Without it, transport would be a nightmare.”

The family’s eldest child, 11-year-old Frida, is on a competitive cheerleading team, which also calls for scheduling and planning. Tuomas is in charge of getting her to training and competitions. The fact that each parent is only responsible for one child’s hobbies makes things easier.

Keeping parents up to date about school

A man sits on a sofa with a piece of paper in one hand and a laptop open in his lap.

Tuomas used the tax authority’s online service to check if he was up to date on his real estate tax. Photo Vilja Harala

Parents are not the only ones to manage daily life with online services. Frida uses her school’s communications application, Wilma, every week. The app, which had several predecessors but was first released under that name in 2001, is now used by the majority of schools all over the country.

Wilma enables messaging between home and school about attendance, homework, exams and grades.

Frida uses it to view her homework for each week, see what her PE teacher has planned for the following class, and so on. Her mother also uses Wilma on a daily basis. She can follow her children’s daily school life and communicate with the teachers through the app. She also receives a summary of the following week’s events.

Frida’s teacher has recommended that pupils also use an app called Otso, which is a nickname for “bear.” The app is linked to a schoolbook publisher and contains additional learning material. It is almost like a pocket-sized teaching assistant.

Database services provide support

Petra and Tuomas both feel that being able to manage their daily lives online saves them a lot of hassle. For example, you can renew a library loan with the click of a button, instead of having to phone or visit the library. “This has saved us a lot in late fees,” Petra says.

Speaking of money, the couple rarely use cash, apart from when they withdraw some from an ATM for their children. This is because they can take care of a variety of financial matters without leaving their couch, from transactions to investments.

The same is true of communicating with various public authorities. Recently, Tuomas used the tax authority’s online service to check if he was up to date on his real estate tax. You can also use the service to submit tax returns and update tax info that your employer needs. In 2022, 88 percent of Finns checked and, when necessary, amended or corrected their tax returns through the online service.

The family uses private, occupational and school healthcare services. A nationwide service called Kanta connects all three and contains doctors’ reports, laboratory results and prescriptions.

Contacting public administration services is also made easier by the national service, which lists all access channels in one place. That’s the quickest way to see which service you need.

Money, time, effort and paper – the family saves all of these things in their daily lives by using digital services.

By Anne Ventelä, ThisisFINLAND Magazine 2023