Finland one of world’s most digitally competitive countries

“The importance of digital competitiveness will only continue to grow,” says Arto Pussinen, the head of digitalisation at Invest in Finland.

Finland is one of the most digitally competitive countries in the world, according to an inaugural ranking published by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD).


The IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking measures the ability of countries to adopt and explore digital technologies as a means to modernise administrative practices, business models and societal structures.


Arto Pussinen, the head of ICT and digitalisation at Finpro’s Invest in Finland, believes it is impossible to overstate the importance of digital capabilities for the overall competitiveness of countries.


“Digital competitiveness is extremely important as more and more industries are digitalising. Its importance will only grow further. Digital technologies will penetrate practically every service and industrial sector in the near future,” he says.


Finland broke comfortably into the top five of the inaugural ranking, finishing fourth after Singapore (1st), Sweden (2nd) and the United States (3rd) but ahead of countries such as Denmark (5th), the Netherlands (6th), Hong Kong (7th) and Switzerland (8th).


Its high ranking is attributable to a number of factors, views Pussinen. Finland, he points out, has a large and highly-advanced information and communications technology sector with no shortage of skilled workers.


“A skilled workforce is a core requirement for digitalisation,” he reminds. “Finland underwent a sectoral transformation when the mobile phone cluster contracted sharply and freed up skilled labour. The crisis created new opportunities and forced us to shed our skin.”


He adds that the country has emerged as a leading site for testing and launching new digital capabilities also due to the technology-orientation of its citizens, the ease of co-operation with universities and research institutes, and the lack of hierarchic and bureaucratic structures.


“Yet another factor are the public support programmes of Finpro, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (Tekes) and other members of Team Finland,” adds Pussinen.

“Supportive government institutions encourage innovation”

Supportive government institutions encourage innovation


IMD, similarly, attributed the successes of certain countries in enhancing their digital competitiveness to the efforts of national governments to facilitate the adoption of new technologies.


“There is no doubt that supportive and inclusive government institutions help technological innovation,” said Professor Arturo Bris, the director of the IMD World Competitiveness Center.


Finland has fared relatively well also in that respect, according to Pussinen. “Team Finland is a part of it. The other part are the reboot projects that have introduced hackathons to various service and industrial sectors. They’ve been sponsored by the state.”


He also draws attention to the importance of support mechanisms at the local level.


“The amount of open data provided by the six largest cities in the country has for its part promoted the creation of new digital services. Our largest cities have been remarkably active in that respect,” he says.


Finland’s aptitude for serving as a testing platform has not gone unnoticed. “A number of major companies have entered the country to digitalise. They perceive the digital as a disruptive element in their sectors, and they’re here to digitalise because it can be done quickly and cost-efficiently,” says Pussinen.


Finland poised to improve overall competitiveness

Pussinen is confident that Finland will also be able to harness its digital capabilities to improve its position in the more established ranking published by IMD, the IMD World Competitiveness Ranking.


“Fourth spot in the ranking is an indication that we should be expecting a surge,” he tells.


The country is already on the right track. It climbed five positions from the previous year to 15th in the IMD World Competitiveness Ranking 2017, largely due to improvements in the categories of business efficiency and economic performance, according to Helsingin Sanomat.


The IMD World Competitiveness Ranking is based primarily on hard data, such as trade and employment statistics, and to a lesser extent on the results of a survey distributed to business executives to gauge their perceptions of issues such as corruption, environmental concerns and the quality of life.


The 6,250 executives who responded to the survey were also asked to name five key pull factors for each of the 63 countries included in the ranking in 2017. A high level of education, reliable infrastructure and skilled workforce were identified as the key pull factors for Finland.


“A high ranking in the survey is always good news,” commented Petri Rouvinen of the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (ETLA). “It strengthens the confidence of those with less knowledge of the country that the economy is taking a turn for the better. Stronger confidence will also promote interest in investing in Finland,” he analysed.


Hong Kong, Switzerland and Singapore claimed the three top spots in the annual ranking, which has been designed to assess how well countries utilise their competencies to create prosperity.