As Fin­land con­ti­nu­es to rank high­ly [glo­bal­ly] in hap­pi­ness, he­alth­ca­re, edu­ca­ti­on, free­dom, etc., the Ame­ri­can in me has been thin­king a lot la­te­ly about what the Uni­ted Sta­tes could adopt from Fin­land that would help the count­ry run more ef­fi­cient­ly. To­day, I want to fo­cus on one of the things that Fin­land does that the Uni­ted Sta­tes should do too.

The US is a big count­ry, for sure, and being made up of 50 dif­fe­rent sta­tes with va­rying laws can make things comp­li­ca­ted if you don’t stay in one place. If I would go to the doc­tor, I would al­wa­ys be gi­ven a clip­bo­ard to fill in all of my in­for­ma­ti­on. And if I nee­ded to see anot­her doc­tor about so­met­hing, I would have to do it all over again while sit­ting in that wai­ting room. If you ha­ven’t li­ved in the US, you wouldn’t be­lie­ve how many ti­mes Ame­ri­cans have to fill out the same in­for­ma­ti­on on the same forms. What a was­te of life…

Here in Fin­land, any­ti­me we go to the doc­tor, the po­li­ce, Kela, etc., our per­so­nal in­for­ma­ti­on and re­cords are ea­si­ly ac­ces­sib­le by simp­ly gi­ving our hen­ki­lö­tun­nus. It do­esn’t mat­ter if we are see­ing a dif­fe­rent doc­tor than we usu­al­ly see or are at a dif­fe­rent es­tab­lish­ment all to­get­her. It wouldn’t mat­ter if we mo­ved to anot­her city en­ti­re­ly. All that in­for­ma­ti­on is ac­ces­sib­le in a da­ta­ba­se which is used all over the count­ry. We ne­ver have to was­te our time fil­ling out the same forms over and over.

Even when I mo­ved in 2020, I just had to make one quick up­da­te and eve­ry­o­ne el­se knew my new ad­d­ress. No need to go to in­di­vi­du­al pla­ces, like the bank, for ins­tan­ce, to let them know my ad­d­ress had chan­ged.

This all co­mes down to the fact that all these da­ta­ba­ses in Fin­land com­mu­ni­ca­te with each ot­her and each ci­ti­zen or re­si­dent has their in­for­ma­ti­on lin­ked to their uni­que ID num­ber. Ame­ri­cans have So­ci­al Se­cu­ri­ty Num­bers, which are es­sen­ti­al­ly the same thing, but pe­op­le are al­wa­ys af­raid to disc­lo­se their SSN to any­o­ne for fear of ha­ving their iden­ti­ty sto­len. I don’t per­so­nal­ly un­ders­tand how much of the fear is jus­ti­fied and for what spe­ci­fic re­a­sons. Ho­we­ver, many US da­ta­ba­ses are in­de­pen­dent­ly ope­ra­ted and do not talk to ot­her da­ta­ba­ses con­tai­ning the very same in­for­ma­ti­on. Even things like cri­mi­nal re­cords may go un­dis­co­ve­red if a per­son mo­ves to anot­her state and cer­tain in­for­ma­ti­on does not trans­fer.  

It is true that some da­ta­ba­ses in the Sta­tes do com­mu­ni­ca­te, but it is fla­wed. If the US adop­ted a sys­tem like Fin­land, all of the per­ti­nent in­for­ma­ti­on could be sto­red and ac­ces­sed count­ry-wide, and eve­ryt­hing would be lin­ked to each uni­que in­di­vi­du­al. This could even help sol­ve this cur­rent “vo­ting rights” is­sue going on, hel­ping to al­low a vo­ter to iden­ti­fy them­sel­ves in or­der to cast their bal­lot. And for those who are af­raid of vo­ter fraud, if the da­ta­ba­se is na­ti­o­nal, I be­lie­ve that would make it ea­sy for one’s re­cord of vo­ting to be mar­ked in the sys­tem so that no­bo­dy el­se could vote un­der that iden­ti­ty, AND the sys­tem could keep track of dead vo­ters so that on­ly vo­tes from the li­ving are coun­ted (wink, wink).

This may seem sil­ly to some and seem like com­mon sen­se to ot­hers. And some may even think this is a mi­nor is­sue that wouldn’t make a big dif­fe­ren­ce, but even see­ming­ly small ad­just­ments could have dras­tic ef­fects and be­ne­fits.

I don’t know all the de­tails and don’t pre­tend to have all the ans­wers, but this is so­met­hing that I think would make a lot of sen­se. It would not pre­vent each state from ha­ving and en­for­cing their own laws, but it would be nice for there to be an ef­fec­ti­ve sys­tem in place for all Ame­ri­cans to help main­tain our ma­jor ser­vi­ces.

You can look for­ward to more ide­as like this from my co­lumn in 2022. Ple­a­se feel free to con­ti­nue this dis­cus­si­on with me via my con­tact in­fo be­low.


Mat­t­hew Bo­wen is an Ame­ri­can li­ving in Pori, Fin­land with his wife, San­ni, their son, Ed­vin, and their dog, Pipo. You can fol­low their jour­ney on Mat­t­hew’s Fa­ce­book blog, My Life in Fin­land (www.fa­ce­­tin­Fin­land/) or con­tact him at my­li­fein­fin­land@ya­