Creating empowering solutions

This blog post is part of our Recoding Society blog series started by Mikko’s blog ‘Creating a positive impact’. The series highlights the impact our work is having on Society. We have identified several challenges we are helping organizations and citizens to overcome, and in this series, our experts share their thoughts featuring real projects one theme at a time.
One of the challenges identified was a question relating to empowering people and organizations. How can this be done? In this blog I first deliberate about the term “empowering”. What does this actually mean? Then give some examples of activities which I believe demonstrate developing empowering solutions.

Creating services that are beautiful

Empowering as a term is quite dated however, understanding exactly what empowering entails is still not straightforward. I conducted a small study using a group of my friends. First, I asked, “what does empowering people mean to you”. I got a wide range of answers starting from “nothing really” to “feedback from other people”, “inspiring growth stories”, “a thing that gives me energy”, “seeing confident people” and so on but nothing really what I was expecting as an answer. This made me feel a bit frustrated. Why are we using this word since it is clearly understood in so many ways? To me, empowering people means creating services that are beautiful and easy to use and that deliver on (or exceed) the users’ expectations. So I carried on  and asked next “what kind of services make you excited” and I got answers like “simple, easy to use”, “UI is easily read”, “able to use my information from several different sources”, “a service that makes me feel it has been developed for me and not for the organization”. These answers resonate with me and I can link them to my work. I can also link them to the ever-evolving world of services.
So, I guess it’s fair to say that even after a very small and by every aspect, not scientific study that a definition for empowering is difficult. It has been defined as an activity stating a concrete action where one authorizes, permits or warrants someone to do something, but often it’s more complicated. Empowering sometimes means that one ends up making someone (else) stronger, better in control of their life, more confident, happier, and so on ( source ) And when we start to get terms like these, we get close to personal feelings and experiences, but we also start comparing to a reference group which further complicates the definition. My final point here being that when we design empowering digital solutions, we must be super conscious not to get cocky, not to think that we know, but rather to be very alert of the things that we simply do not and cannot know (on behalf of others).
What do we do then when amongst all the other important requirements we also need to take account of empowering people and organizations when designing digital solutions? This sounds like an almost impossible task. How can you figure out different things that will have a meaningful, positive, sustainable, ethical and legal impact and that are also empowering different aspects of our quality of life? Luckily this is a question that we are not trying to solve alone.

Using AI and data in an ethical way

In Finland, the preliminary study on the Aurora national artificial intelligence program worked on how cross-organizationally by using AI in an ethical way, completely new services which come close to people’s life events can be developed. Empowering people by enabling easier access to more suitable services was at the heart of the pre-study. Experts from Gofore participated in ‘Moving to a place of study’ and ‘The well-being of children and parents in changing family relationships’ projects.
The MyData movement works rigorously “to empower individuals with their personal data, thus helping them and their communities develop knowledge, make informed decisions, and interact more consciously and efficiently with each other as well as with organizations” ( Gofore is a member of MyData Global as we believe in the same mission to empower individuals by improving their right to self-determination regarding their personal data.
Already up and running in Finland, we have our very own Kanta-services where we as citizens have access to our health and prescription data and the professionals always have up-to-date patient data. Kanta-services are a huge step towards even more empowering services in the welfare sector. Much like AuroraAI, preliminary studies for Kanta are developed by a wide variety of operators including Kela and THL but also users and IT system developers. This demonstrates how the public and private sectors when working towards common goals and including the users, can create something completely new. Gofore is one example of a private sector company involved in Kanta-development.
Recently there was much debate and even heated discussion around the secondary use of health and social data. Despite the discussion, a separate law was approved by the Finnish Parliament on 13.3.2019 making Finland a forerunner in enabling innovative and ethical use of data.  In a nutshell, this law will level up the market for health and social services by making it possible to use data for steering, supervision, research, statistical analysis and development. In other words, this new law simply empowers organizations and companies providing health and social services to develop the market more equally.
Through programs like AuroraAI and movements like MyData plus concrete projects like Kanta, which are pioneering, I believe that significant and sustainable improvements with even deeper and wider impacts than merely empowering individuals or companies will happen. It makes me very happy to be able to say that Gofore is participating in all of the activities described in this blog.

Kaija Puranen

Kaija Puranen

Kaija toimii Goforella johdon konsulttina. Kaijan työkalupakista löytyy niin perinteisten projektimenetelmien parhaat palat kuin myös ketterät menetelmät sekä niiden isoille projekteille ja organisaatioille skaalatut versiot. Ennen Goforea Kaija teki pitkän uran Microsoftilla ja Nokialla.Juuri nyt Kaijaa eniten työllistävät asiakaslähtöisyyteen liittyvät muutosprojektit, niissä erityisenä kiinnostuksen kohteena ovat johtamiskulttuurin muutos, rikastetun datan tuomat mahdollisuudet sekä GDPR vipuvoimana.

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Did you know that the first ever webpage was completely responsive by default? And then we broke it with overcomplicated customizations. (Accessibility, Back to the Future | Bruce Lawson | Monki Gras 2019)

A bit about Technical debt of the HTML standard

HTML was written by Tim Berners-Lee originally in 1993 but was updated to version 4.01 in 1999 (the most used version) and also based on that the XHML1.0 standard was released. I remember first wondering what’s the meaning for <div>-tag introduced in HTML3.2 after 1997. W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) abandoned XHTML after version 2.0, but used all the functions that XHTML supports when designing HTML5. Usually, you need to know what features browsers support like with CSS3 and JavaScript ES6 and the same goes with HTML5, but luckily semantic elements of HTML5 have been widely supported for many years now.

Use semantic tags to communicate meaning instead of for presentation purposes

invalid HTML tags
HTML elements are chosen by what the content is – not by their appearance. Simply put, HTML semantics are HTML tags that have a meaning.

<p> <h1> <form> <input> <textarea> <label> <select> <button> <blockquote> <q> <code> <em> <strong> <pre>
<sub> <sup> <table> <thead> <tfoot> <th> <td> <header> <nav> <main> <article> <section> <aside> <footer>
<address> <time> <data> <cite> <del> <ins> <abbr> <dfn> <figure> <figcaption> <kbd> <var> *<b> *<i>

* semantic in HTML5 (for ensuring accessibility use <em> and <strong>)

Common tags that don’t include semantic meaning in HTML are <div> and <span>. That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have some semantic meaning in visual user experience or cognitive accessibility.
When we think about creating a webpage or a webapp we should be thinking about communicating. The visual appearance is a separately defined part of the result. A semantic HTML-page is providing meaningful information to the browser and other clients like screen readers, search engines and developers analyzing the source. So semantics go far beyond how the content looks on a page. The browser agent creates the basic visuals based on the semantics. It is common in today’s real world that the visual design needs to be something completely different from what the browsers default to. We can use technical languages, tools and libraries to get the desired visual styles. We can also just reset them to always behave in the same way. Don’t use HTML-tags in an HTML document (or layout and view of a webapp) just for their common display properties. Remember to separate that from your ideology and just think first about the semantic structure.

Prevent the most common mistakes – use CSS to modify visual appearance.

  • Don’t use <h1> – <h6> -elements for text sizing.
  • Dividing content with <div>’s says nothing about the structure or why contents are in separate containers.
  • Only <li> -tags are allowed to be the direct descendants (rendered content) of <ul> or <ol>.
  • <blockquote>, <ul> or <ol> should not be used for indentation.
  • Don’t define margins and padding (spacing) with semantic HTML e.g. <p>&nbsp;</p>.
  • <table> element represents tabular data not layout. Use <div>’s and <span>’s to implement visual layout and styling.

too many div-elements

Authors are strongly encouraged to view the div element as an element of last resort, for when no other element is suitable. Use of more appropriate elements instead of the div element leads to better accessibility for readers and easier maintainability for authors.

It is worth mentioning that you cannot escape understanding the basics by using libraries and frameworks. Even Semantic-UI – advertised as using concise HTML – still has notable ongoing issues with accessibility. Wouldn’t you think it is also misleading to be called a fullstack developer or a web developer if you don’t know how to create a basic HTML document?
css is awesome

The key to Accessibility

The first key to accessibility – and even to user experience for people with disabilities – is learning to use semantics.

As a developer, you should be more focused on writing semantic HTML documents – not CSS (and creating a proper Design System so the developers can just stop writing custom CSS). Semantic HTML improves the readability of code – also closing tags tell you what they are closing. Understanding a new codebase can be easier if it uses the standards.
Jekyll and Hyde book cover [Robert Louis Stevenson, W.A. Wiggins]

Maybe I should make sure that others can also see how I think of the content.

How about we make the web a bit more equal?

Spend a few moments during the  Global Accessibility Awareness Day on May 16th 2019 learning and sharing the basics for accessible software development.
So how do you start? All the information needed is available for everyone on the wild wild web, but one of my favourite sites for related information is  MDN Web Docs.

Joonas Kallunki

Joonas Kallunki

Joonas on visuaalisesti ajatteleva front-end kehittäjä, joka innostuu uusista tavoista sovellusten käyttökokemuksen jalostamisessa. Hän on myös kiinnostunut ihmisten ja teknologian välisestä vuorovaikutuksesta nyt ja tulevaisuudessa. Keskeisinä asioina hänen elämässään näyttäytyvät musiikki, luonto ja liikunta sekä perheen sovittaminen hyvään työkulttuuriin. "CSS dude voi hoitaa tämän".

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Recoding-podcastin uusimpaan jaksoon sain vieraakseni suomalaisen tekoälymaailman matkaoppaan Antti Merilehdon, joka julkaisi viime vuonna aiheesta kirjan Tekoäly: Matkaopas johtajille. Viime vuoden myydyimmän bisneskirjan kirjoittajaa on kutsuttu mm. tekoälyn supermieheksi, ja hän on kiertänyt ympäri Suomea puhumassa tekoälystä ja sen käyttöönotosta. Keskustelimme Antin kanssa siitä, miten tekoäly tulee muuttamaan liike-elämää ja yhteiskuntaa, ja missä tällä hetkellä Suomessa mennään tekoälyn hyödyntämisessä. Kuuntele jakso SoundCloudista, Spotifysta tai lue artikkeli alta:

Kokeiluista tuotantoon
Tällä hetkellä tekoälyä hyödyntävien organisaatioiden keskuudessa puhutaan paljon asiakaskokemuksesta ja siitä, miten dataa voidaan hyödyntää asiakaskokemuksen parantamiseen. Esimerkiksi asiakaspalautteiden analysointiin on kehitetty tekoälyä hyödyntäviä työkaluja. Tällaisten työkalujen avulla työntekijöiltä voidaan ottaa toistuvaa työtä pois, jonka seurauksena näiden roolit muuttuvat. Antin mukaan nyt suuri haaste on työntekijöiden kyvykkyyden kehittämisessä. Hän painottaa erityisesti tiiminvetäjien kouluttamista tiimiläisten tukemisessa, kun nämä siirtyvät tekemään erilaista työtä ja ratkomaan haastavampia ongelmia.
Myös julkisella puolella on kokeiltu tekoälyn hyödyntämistä esimerkiksi valtion Aurora AI -tekoälyohjelmassa, ja tässä myös Goforen asiantuntijat ovat olleet mukana. Tällä hetkellä vaikuttaa siltä, että jos uusi hallitus uskoo tekoälyn vaikuttavuuteen, julkisella puolella on mahdollista rakentaa uudenlaisia palveluita seuraavan hallituskauden aikana. Tämä kuitenkin edellyttää siirtymistä pienistä tekoälykokeiluista tuotantoon sekä julkisella että yksityisellä sektorilla.
”Ei me järjestetä enää kokeiluja siitä, toimiiko sakset. Me tiedetään, että ne toimii, meidän pitää vaan oppia käyttämään niitä.”
Antin mukaan kokeiluista ei tule kokonaan luopua, mutta kokeilujen tulee olla riittävän kokoisia, jotta niiden vaikutus todella tulee esiin.

Johdon asenne tekoälyn hyödyntämisen mahdollistajana tai jarruttajana

Antin mukaan yritysten välillä on runsaasti eroja siinä, miten tekoälyä hyödynnetään. Suurimpana syynä tähän hän näkee johdon asenteen. Tekoälystä ja sen hyödyntämisestä ei ole olemassa kahden sivun yhteenvetoa, vaan sen käyttöönotto edellyttää aiheeseen tutustumista ja perehtymistä. Tiivistelmän tai yhteenvedon puuttuessa saatetaan ajatella, että annetaan jonkun muun hoitaa, ja tällaisen ulkoistamisen Antti sanoo olevan historiaa.
”Jokaisen johtajatittelillä olevan pitää ymmärtää dataa. Ei niin, että tekee itse data-arkkitehtuuria, vaan ymmärrystä datan hyödyntämisestä. Yritykselle, joka on ulkoistamassa datan käsittelyn ja hyödyntämisen, suosittelen ehdotusta seuraavan yhtiökokoukseen: myydään assetit ja ajetaan firma alas. Koska viiden vuoden päästä sellaista yritystä, joka ei hyödynnä dataa, ja jonka johto ei ymmärrä tätä, sitä ei ole olemassa.”
Tekoälyn käyttöönotossa johdolta vaaditaan koko organisaatiolle viestittävissä olevaa visiota siitä, miten tekoäly vaikuttaa organisaatioon. Antin mukaan tekoälyn soveltaminen vaatii samoja asioita kuin muutoksen johtaminen: läpinäkyvää, rohkeaa ja visionääristä johtajuutta sekä avointa viestintää. Hän peräänkuuluttaa myös myötätuntoa:
”Myötätuntoa itselle, eli kun en ymmärrä, kysyn apua. Mutta myös myötätuntoa niitä kohtaan, jotka jarruttelevat muutosta. Ei kuitenkaan niin, että mennään jarruttajien tahdilla, siihen ei ole varaa.”
Positiivista on kuitenkin se, että Antin kokemuksen mukaan johtoryhmät alkavat jo tuntemaan perusteet melko hyvin. Hallitusten kanssa tekemistä vielä kuitenkin riittää.

Vie työpaikat vai parantaa maailman?

Tekoälystä maalaillaan usein kauhukuvia, joissa robotit vievät ihmisiltä työt. Tekoälyn käyttöönotto ei ole puhtaasti teknologiakysymys ja kaikki näkökulmat täytyvät olla mukana keskustelussa. Antti kuitenkin huomauttaa, että harva enää kyntää peltoakaan käsin, vaan maataloudessakin on otettu koneita ja automaatiota avuksi. Samalla lailla tekoäly on yksi muutoksen suunta, joka tarjoaa uusia mahdollisuuksia. Antti korostaa myös, että tekoälyn tuomista muutoksista puhuttaessa on tärkeää ymmärtää mistä puhutaan. Hän kannustaakin tekoälyn opiskelua ja siihen tutustumista jokaiselle, joka pelkää tekoälyn tuomaa muutosta. Myös esimerkiksi eduskuntatasolle tarvitaan ihmisiä, joilla on riittävä ymmärrys asiasta. Sillä Antin mukaan tekoäly on keino kohti parempaa elämää ja parempaa maailmaa.
Uskotko sinä muutokseen? Siihen, että voit muuttaa maailmaa paremmaksi ihmisille ja ympäristölle?
Tutustu uuteen julkaisuumme ja asiantuntijoidemme näkemyksiin: Recoding change

Mikael Nylund

Mikael Nylund

Mikael on Goforen toimitusjohtaja. Hän on työskennellyt Goforessa vuodesta 2010 lähtien ja auttanut sinä aikana lukuisia organisaatioita polulla kohti digitaalista liiketoimintaa. Mikael ajattelee, että parempi tulevaisuus tehdään teknologian avulla ihmisten ehdoilla.

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Tampere, Finland, May 02, 2019 — Gofore, a Finnish digitalisation specialist with international growth plans, today announced that it has joined the Google Cloud Partner Program as a services partner giving Google Cloud customers the ability to benefit from Gofore’s cloud capabilities.
Google Cloud Platform is the 3rd big cloud provider Gofore has partnered with (AWS, Azure and now GCP). We’re proud to be GCP’s 8th partner company in Finland. This bolsters Gofore’s standing as a leading Cloud Platform consultancy company.
As a Google Cloud partner, Gofore offers customers consulting services no matter what their technology is, whether moving to a cloud system, or planning and building their own cloud infrastructure. In addition, we provide reliable service management on different platforms.
Key features of Gofore’s cloud offering include:

  • Agile Application Development with modern tools and technologies
  • Cloud consulting in all aspects of the cloud
  • User training, workshops

The Google Cloud Platform brings many benefits to our customers including:

  • A truly global private network
  • Great developer experience (When asked, most developers would prefer to use GCP for their new projects)
  • Google Cloud is the clear leader in the AI, ML and container market space
  • Saving costs utilizing the performance and scalability of the Cloud
  • A data centre in Finland for lower latencies for our clients in Finland

Whether you need help with Big Data and creating Data Pipelines, software development, lift and shift or creating cloud infrastructure, Gofore has your back. We have over 7 years of Cloud experience delivering complex customer projects and creating value for our customers.
Gofore is excited to join The Google Cloud Platform Partner Program. This partnership allows us to expand our proven expertise in the Cloud, bring the benefits of Google Cloud Platform and provide additional value to our customers.”, said Timur Kärki, CEO, Gofore.

Toni Lahtinen

Toni Lahtinen

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Creating a positive impact

Recently in Finland, we had a general election, this made me think about my country. Who we are, why we are what we are, and what will become of us? If I had to name one and only one thing that describes it, I would say it is equality.
Here in Finland, the concept of equality is a value that we strongly cherish. Throughout history, Finland has been a country where at the end of the day the differences between people have been small. We have a history of being a poor country, often beaten by others. Here the wealth and income differences amongst people have been small. Some lucky ones may have had two horses, while everyone else has had one. That has been pretty much it as far as wealth differences go.
We know things are changing. So, how do we ensure that people are equal not only today but also tomorrow and in the days to come?
I think there are few things that lay solid foundations for the equality of people. I am ready to claim that without them; inequality will raise its ugly head and bring back the hardships we have seen in the past and that we want to avoid in the future.

Equality, Democracy, Education and Access

Democracy and the equal right to vote are no brainers. I do not even need to mention them.
After democracy, the first one is treating people the same way regardless of their sex, colour of skin, age, shape or any other quality. We are all human beings and are to be treated as such.
Then there is the idea of education. We Finns value access to education. The more you know, the less you can be fooled. The more you know, the better you understand the world around you. And the better you understand the world around you, the better you can contribute to the welfare of others.
Third, no one is to be left behind. An equal society takes care of its every member. Access to health care and social security is guaranteed. Those who have resources are happy to support those with lesser strength. An equal society has a safety net to catch those who fall.
Fourth, everyone has equal access to information, knowledge and public services. A civil servant in an equal society is happy to walk the extra mile in order to ensure that everyone is considered. I know this for a fact as I have witnessed it to happen many times. I have faith in our civil servants.
There are many things that matter. Yet, I want to raise one more thing. It is the belief that at the end of the day, after all, is said and done, we all believe that the neighbour comes with good intentions. I call it trust.
So, why do I write about equality and what do I mean by the above? I have been with my current employer since 2012. During these years I have worked on many projects with the public sector that include these topics and they have contributed to greater equality. My previous projects have covered voting, education, social security, ensuring comprehensive access to public services for all, plus, many more. And all this in an environment where everyone assumes good intentions and treats each other in an equal manner.
You can call me naïve or idealistic I do not care. Instead, I care about the fact that we all are equal in an equal world. And that is what we need to work for. I feel privileged to work for a company that creates a positive impact and to have contributed towards the open and equal society that we enjoy in Finland today. As Gofore expands internationally my hope is that we can share some of our experiences to help other societies in their quest for greater equality.

Positive impact examples

Here are a few examples of Gofore projects in Finland which have a significant impact on people’s lives:

  • service family that allows equal access to public services and transparency to data government holds on individuals.
  • ePerusteet service, which provides a basis for efficient and transparent education planning
  • Pre-study for Internet voting: how feasible is Internet voting for the Finnish democracy?
  • Työmarkkinatori, which provides efficient access to employment opportunities for unemployed people
  • and many more…

Mikko Kolehmainen

Mikko Kolehmainen is a Leading Consultant with extensive experience in software engineering, architectural work, project management, strategy development and organization management. With exceptionally wide-ranging experience, he is able to effectively analyze business strategy objectives and describe them as business-oriented and business-driven requirements for an organization.

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