The City of Espoo: a unique experiment in which AI identified individuals in need of support

It is important to the City of Espoo to develop customer-centric services that take into consideration the customers’ needs and problems. Like many municipalities, also in Espoo data regarding municipal citizens is siloed. This means that data regarding one person is stored in information systems of different sectors and services, which do not share information. This creates internal service paths that prevent seeing customers as a whole.

Developing customer-centric solutions with artificial intelligence

The City of Espoo wanted to develop services centring on customer wellbeing and needs. The goal was to combine separate information sources with AI, in order to create customer and service paths. 

The experiment aimed at finding out whether customer groups in need of service can be identified earlier than before using artificial intelligence, so that individual information security remains intact – and at the same time Espoo also wanted to gain understanding of which factors influence municipality citizens’ wellbeing and service use. 

“In addition to benefitting individuals, artificial intelligence also benefits city employees and the City of Espoo – and also society, as we as a city can offer our data to various research institutes. I don’t believe that artificial intelligence is yet a decision-making factor in Espoo, but it is surely providing our employees important support in daily decision making.”
Tomas Lehtinen, Project Manager, Data Analyst Consultant, City of Espoo. 

AI was harnessed to advance social and healthcare service planning and to predict wellbeing

The experiment combined the social, healthcare and early education customer relationship data of the entire population of Espoo for the years 2002–2016. By analysing this data mass, we found new preventive methods for targeting services to municipality citizens, for example to prevent social exclusion. 

One of the most important results of the project was confirmation that artificial intelligence can be used in planning social and healthcare services and in predicting individual wellbeing. During the project for example a risk forecasting model was developed which can predict child welfare customer relationships up to five years ahead. Artificial intelligence found approximately 280 factors that anticipated a child welfare customer relationship. None of these factors alone is a risk, but the simultaneous occurrence of several factors can be a risk.

The experiment also enabled, for the first time, the review of customer paths by family, as the city’s data systems are usually individual-oriented.

Public data has never previously been combined in the same way as in the experiment by Espoo and Tieto. The experiment was possible due to the extremely precise public-sector information systems and high-quality data that exist in Finland.

A unique experiment in which public sector customer data was combined and analysed with AI

The starting point for the project was to test if AI can help targeting preventive services to individuals at the right time, so that the city can support  individual wellbeing. 

Tieto and the City of Espoo jointly handled a huge data mass that consisted of customer relationship data of the entire population of Espoo for the years 2002–2016 and covered approximately 520,000 people and more than 37 million customer contacts. All data processing included extreme measures to ensure information security. Personal data, such as names, identity numbers and addresses were concealed already during data collection. Encryption was used for all data transmission.

We first brought all Espoo’s social and healthcare data into a data lake, where we could combine it so that we saw the customers and their service use as a whole.

Our experiment demonstrated that artificial intelligence and the utilisation of data can have a significant role in health care. With support from AI and data analytics, new service paths can be developed. Social and healthcare service professionals can also utilise AI in their daily work to support decision making.

About the customer

The City of Espoo

Espoo is the home city of over 270 000 people. Finland’s second largest city Espoo is a lively, growing, developing, and pleasant place to live. Espoo combines top know-how of businesses and individuals, versatile nature and pleasant and safe residential areas.

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