First day in Finland, a ton of information & meetings

2009 October 27
by Ismail Dhorat

Yesterday, was our first official day of the SAFIPA Knowledge Exchange visit to Finland. We had a busy day of meetings and many interesting discussions. The first thing you notice about Finland is the broadband, fast and available most places. Apparently, broadband is now a Legal right as well. The next web also has a graphic mapping broadband penetration, average speeds and costs.


Finland has the 3rd highest average speeds at 22mbps and one of the highest percentage of broadband penetration: 80%, and to top it all off it’s extremely cheap just $2.77. Often operators make the argument that South Africa cannot support cheap broadband due to the market size (Finlands population is just 5 million).

I say:

Actual name of a sweet

Actual name of a sweet

Today we spent most of the day at Aalto University, and we were hosted by Professor Matti Hämäläinen. During the morning session Sandeep Shah gave us an overview of Otaniemi, “the sillicon valley” of Finland. Some of the key points was the creation of “micro-clusters”, they have identified key strengths but found that the players in these markets were scattered (i.e 3d graphics, nano technology etc.). The project aims to bring them physically closer together to increase collaboration between private, academic and the public entities.

Ismo Rantala provided us with an overview of what the Finish Mobile association.

Prof Matti Hämäläinen, covered living labs as a platform for research, education and innovation. He also covered a case study of OtaSizzle / SizzleLab where they study mobile and social interaction amongst students using a bunch of mobile social media tools.

From there we headed to Technopolis Ventures. An incubator and organization that supports entrepreneurs. It seems like a very scrappy environment, the buildings are simple prefab style but this is where the startups are based, i guess this is the equivalent to starting in your garage in the US but with the added benefit of support structures. They had about 417 applications for the 3 month pre-incubation programme during 2008, 113 of those were accepted and 86 of them eventually graduated into full incubation which lasts between 1-3 years. Compare this to the Maxum pre-incubation programme? a mere +- 35! Is there a lack of entrepreneurs or is there little value in these programmes that discourages entrepreneurs from applying?

Later, Professor Martti Mäntylä director of the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology gave us an overview of some of the interesting research areas at HIIT, which includes research into Future Internet. Answering the question, what would the internet look like if it was designed today? Taking into consideration things like mobile and ubiquitous computing, trust, privacy etc. Basically overcoming some of the shortcomings of the current TCP/IP protocol and the challenges faced on the Internet. The Future Internet becomes information aware (Data now has a unique identifier, similar to how a device currently has an IP address)

Another interesting story, was the history of how Jaiku was founded. Jaiku was founded in February 2006, and launched in July (Twitter’s first tweet was on the 21st of March twitter). Both the services seem to have begun developing their services around the same time. However the most interesting part is that the first prototype for Jaiku was actually based on research done at HIIT on small group phenomena, in particular how mobile tech can enhance transparency of mobile communities. The source code for the research was released under open source and this was used as the basis for Jaiku.

We ended the day with elevator pitches, some networking and arranged meetings for the rest of the week. All in all it was a very interesting day with a ton of useful information.

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