Happy Independence Day 2017 Finland!

With the unique Slush 2016 tech event of last week now behind us here in Helsinki, Finland sets out to celebrate a hundred years of independence in 2017.

Independence day celebration being about history and looking back on our accomplishments, 100 is a very nice round figure for not only reflection on the past – but also to contemplate where we want to go next.

It goes without saying that there is a major cultural paradigm shift going on for our country, and as for the rest of the world, perhaps too. Over the next one hundred years, Finnish companies, like others, will have to make services and products that put the needs of the customers first, without compromises.

The global stage, especially the digital, is a very competitive one.

Finland has a long tradition of approaching product and service design from a technological standpoint. Perhaps this is a key element in what originally placed Nokia cellphones, as well as many other innovations, firmly on the global market. But equally importantly, we tend to base our design on the needs of our customers, as well as to approach industrial design and IT from a Nordic aesthetic standpoint.

Take the Iittala products, spatial design by Alvar Aalto, Visit Finland’s brand, and the Helsinki-Vantaa airport as prime examples.

For me, this year’s independence day celebration incorporates mixed emotions, as our current government seems to emphasize values that differ from many things that I most value in Finnish culture.

Finland is currently facing heavy cuts of budget on the overall education and cultural sector, and the startup spirit of the Slush event seems to have not hindered our decision makers from reducing the education budgets in Finland to the bare minimum.

However, without our education system and most Finns in the field of IT and design being professionals with a polytechnic institute or university level background, we would hardly be able to host such amazing events as Slush and we would certainly not have witnessed the success of Finnish design and technology globally.

Independence day celebration here in Finland also being largely about fighting the Russians during the Second World War it is a very curious fact that in the ongoing crisis in Middle-East – caused chiefly by the absurd and offensive politics of the United States – is a cause of little or no concern for many Finns – even so much so, that a small minority of us Finns would present racist attitudes towards refugees fleeing from war.

With that being said – I am very happy about being born a Finn and here, as there are still many heavy issues to tackle in many other places in the world.

Finnish women won the right to vote a hundred years ago, and Finland, in fact, was the very first country in Europe to grant women that right.

Equality between the sexes and equality among people from different backgrounds being a key element in how our parents built this country, I wish we as Finns could promote these kinds of values more, both in our own country as well as globally.

Me and Mr. Jorma Ollila

So I got to feature in the same Wired Magazine article as Nokia’s former CEO Mr. Jorma Ollila once.

I was 16 at the time. You can read the full article online here:

http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/7.09/nokia_pr.html

This article offers a brief glimpse into the world of the Finnish company Nokia during its emergence and heyday.

It has been over 15 years since Steve Silberman visited Finland and that article was published in the Wired Magazine, but much of what has been written there is still relevant. Nokia’s R&D department was confident already before the turn of the millennium, that wireless technology will evolve in the direction of what we might call “augmented reality”. In fact the term seems to may have been coined by Nokia’s Hannu Nieminen, head of Nokia’s Visual Communications Technology laboratory back in the days.

Here’s a quote from the aforementioned article, “Just say Nokia”:

“– The long-range vision, however, is delivery of what Nieminen calls “augmented reality.” Once we stop thinking of the phone as a handset with a keyboard, it becomes the point of contact between the personal bubble and the global datasphere – it could be a transmitter/receiver worn on our belts or as a piece of jewelry. The display technologies will, in Nieminen’s words, evolve toward “applications that bring the information close to your senses”: eyeglasses, earphones – wearable wireless. Combined with locational services like GPS, the network could not only know where you are, it could also know where you are in relation to others.”

Sound familiar, Apple and Google?

Anyway, I believe the future of digital media and tech will be in “augmenting” our experience of the world. This, I believe, is why apps like Spotify that on the one hand promote serendipitious discovery and on the other hand are based on utilizing the data of the user’s previous actions and preferences, are gaining in popularity.