When I think about my own role (smaller than some say) in driving the Nordic digital mission – good for society at large - starting in banking and now aiming at verifying and connecting all data to life events and automation – there are some observations
that may be relevant also from here forward.
1. Everything is based on teamwork – in constantly expanding networks. The leader’s role is to trust, get enthusiastic, inspire, innovate and create – in the best case be - the narrative that can be understood. What is simple to understand, is repeated and
what is repeated changes the world. If you become a figurehead your responsibility for driving momentums obviously grows.
2. My own journey has been as serious of meeting skilled and enthusiastic teams (nothing is as contagious as enthusiasm – except lack of enthusiasm). Trusting and empowering them was then - and is still – easy. It is this teamwork that keep adding broad
steps to the digital ladder. A symbol for the fact that the value of each step is exponential when it leads – as technology and above all user habit to the next one.
2.1. The first big one was e-banking. A splendid team who understood what technology could do in 1980 and understood to network with other actors. Most banking services were already on the net before Internet brought the colours.
2.2. E-banking became the stepping stone for e-IDservices in the early 90s and is now used as an ecosystem used over 30 times per year per citizen (half of the transactions with the public sector). Splendid team – understanding that also paper signatures
could be replaced – also outside banking.
2.3. Then it was asked that why the - by then widespread habit to pay invoices in the netbank - could not ALSO (love this word) be used for paying in e-shops. The simple real-time account-to-account payment (eliminating the risks and much of the costs
for merchants) still dominates e-commerce in Finland. All citizens do not have credit cards – but all have bank accounts.
2.4. Then (late 90s) it was asked if customers really have to key in account and ever longer reference numbers when paying bills. E-invoicing was born – a new platform for accounting and data economy was thus born. A splendid team created the 4-corner
model ecosystem and now in practise all SMEs have signed up for the service with banks. You get a text message to your phone and press A – and it is paid on due date. Surely the best package in the world.
2.5. In 2000 an enthusiastic mobile banking team established the Mobey Forum with the target to move from closed gardens to a global open model – you can choose and bank, any operator and any handset and change any of these freely. I had the honor
to chair it for the 4 first years. With Nordea, Nokia, Visa, Ericsson and Motorola we managed to sign up some 20 of the leading global banks. All targets have not been met but Mobey continues its valuable work.
2.6. Then it was asked if the e-invoicing 4-corner model could not also be used for getting e-salary statements linked to the bank account credit. Not difficult..
3. We started e-invoicing to eliminate the manual keying in for customers. In the late 90s the Finnish State Treasury, Federation of Municipalities and the Federation of Employers presented there cost saving estimates (mostly based on incoming invoice payment
automation. It was 150+150+2800 million€/year!. For sure made us feel also like productivity heroes.
This would mean a total annual cost saving of 210 billion in EU. We thus established the Real Time Economy program with Full SEPA as a target. I had the honor of chairing the EU Expert Group on e-Invoicing in 2008-10.
3.1. The E-invoicing ecosystem as a platform for automating accounting and VAT-reporting brought in enthusiasm from the accounting industry and the Tax administration. The Aalto- university brought in valuable research.
3.2. E-receipt work was started in 2014 to automate accounting further and a rulebook for the ecosystem was created in 2017. Full launch is now in the Finnish governments program. The obvious end-game solution to near-eliminating the grey economy
is to make both e-invoicing and e-receipt mandatory.
4. My next step was to become a founding member in Mydata.org, A very enthusiastic global team driving not only GDPR-based privacy protection but as the next step making it actionable – bringing the data (RTE-data especially mature) to citizens’ life-event
based services – at home and at work.
5. And now the most important megastep – the open source (ToIP based technical and contracting architecture) Findy network to provide the much missed universal ID and power to act for citizens, organizations and things – not-for-profit public-private infrastructure
as the fundament for all ecosystems and services - to make the next steps in RTE easy and MyData services real. Opportunity for Finland to be the global laboratory and make the EU-data strategy advance in real terms.
What have I learned from this journey? That there are many unsung brave heroes in the building of the steps on the ladder. I could name many – but have a too high risk to have forgotten many.
Nobody knows what is hidden behind the next corner. Instead of planning the future, you should go around the corner with your idea. Invariably – in my experience – there where unexpected people there and so often saying “Could this great innovation ALSO
be used or xyz.” And more often than not this took us to the next level.