Helsinki launches drive to promote electronic public service payments

By on 14/11/2019 | Updated on 24/09/2020
Helsinki’s citizens are being encouraged to use e-invoicing to pay social and health care bills. (Image courtesy Mikaela Suomalainen/Wikimedia Commons).

The public authority for Finland’s capital city, Helsinki, has launched an initiative to encourage elderly residents to pay bills electronically. The City of Helsinki has teamed up with lobby group Finance Finland (FFI) to launch the pilot project, which kicks off this month.

The initiative is scheduled to run for six months, and is targeted at residents aged over 65 who receive invoices from Helsinki social care and health care services. The project aims both to find digital solutions that facilitate seniors’ bill payment, and to boost the efficiency of the city’s financial management. Citizens are to be encouraged and supported to use e-invoicing systems and direct debits to pay care bills, with the project focusing on those who already use online banking services.

Helsinki has offered e-invoicing since 2007, but consumers have been slow to switch from paper invoicing. In 2018, e-invoices comprised about 30% of the 1.2m invoices sent by the city’s municipal authorities and agencies. Just 14% of invoices sent to social and health care service customers were electronic.

E-invoicing, the scheme’s proponents say, has advantages for financial management, such as reducing typing errors and the payment delays that can be caused by address changes. “Because digital money transfer removes the need to carry cash, it also improves seniors’ safety”, Kristiina Siikala, head of development at FFI, told Global Government Forum. Siikala is also a member of a steering group run working to reduce financial exploitation of the elderly.

Internet not required

“Now that Helsinki has taken direct debiting into use, customers without access to online banking services can also benefit from electronic payments. Direct debit is a modern option for customers without the tools, skills or capacity to use online services,” added process administrator Anita Andsten, who works for City of Helsinki Financial Management Services (known as Talpa).

Talpa has invited 800 senior citizens to a half-day seminar, which is scheduled to take place in February 2020 in central Helsinki, featuring presentations from organisations including FFI and banks. Organisers hope to attract relatives and helpers as well as those receiving care services.

Every citizen who receives bills for their care has received a letter in which the authority encourages them to use e-invoices. There are also plans to visit an old people’s home to encourage those without the internet or mobiles to use direct debits.

After the six-month project, recommendations will be compiled for boosting e-payments in Helsinki, as well as other Finnish municipalities.

As well as Talpa and FFI, participants in the project include Helsinki’s Elderly Citizens Council, which consists of five elected city officials and representatives of eight Helsinki-based organisations for elderly people.

The 65-years-plus demographic is a fast-growing proportion of Finland’s population of just over 5.5m.

About Ian Hall

Ian is editor of Global Government Fintech a sister publication to Global Government Forum. Ian also writes for media including City AM and #DisruptionBanking. He is former UK director for the pan-European media network Euractiv (2011-2018), editor of Public Affairs News (2007-2011) and news editor of PR Week (2000-2007). He was shortlisted for ‘Editor of the Year’ at the British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME) Awards in 2010. He began his career in Bulgaria at English-language weekly the Sofia Echo. Ian has an MA in Urban and Regional Change in Europe and a BA in Economics, both from Durham University.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *