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.facebook.com/MattinFinland/) or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.