‘Prepare for a new human-driven data economy’

Dr Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki, Director General, Chief Medical Officer, Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and Antti Kivelä, Director, Empowering Society, at Finnish innovation fund, Sitra, talk about IHAN, the fund’s new initiative to put data in the hands of the citizen.

What is the IHAN project all about?

AK: IHAN is a new Finnish project that aims to create an international protocol giving people control over how their data is being used. IHAN stands for ‘International Human Account Network’: think of it as a kind of IBAN (International Bank Account Number) for personal data.

L-M V-P: With the proposed IHAN, the individual would gain access to his or her data and could decide who to share that data with. This can be anyone from health and social care personnel to tax authorities. So it’s a bi-directional platform.

What will be the benefits to the citizen?

L-M V-P: More and more often, people want control over how their data is used. And they want to liaise with official bodies and other actors when it suits them – not during ‘working hours’. IHAN holds promise to facilitate this. Everyone has a mobile phone these days – and through it, IHAN will help make it easier to manage the everyday practical details of life, collaborate with the authorities, handle your health and family issues and so on.

What is the background of IHAN’s development?

L-M V-P: The proposed Act on the Secondary Use of Health and Social care Data in Finland is just going through parliament and will provide the legal basis for secure and safe handling of sensitive personal information. This legislation is designed to be in line with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Should we have the secondary use of official databases and data registries regulated in the country then, along with strong co-operation and collaboration between stakeholders, we can turn towards making it possible for individuals to govern personal information created in everyday life. Our stand for a long time in this country has been that nobody owns data that is related to or derived from a person. Rather individuals and organisations have rights and obligations related to the processing of such data, and IHAN helps to govern the use of this data.

What are your hopes for IHAN?

AK: With the GDPR coming into force in May, we think there will be room for this kind of system to give citizens say over who sees their data and that it will help fuel a new, human-driven data economy. We hope that IHAN will become the European standard for transferring citizens’ data.

L-M V-P: The IBAN system has been a very positive thing for the Finnish people and has made the financial side of life so much easier. IHAN could potentially do the same for individuals’ relationship with their personal data.

What do you see as particularly unique about IHAN and a reason why you think it will succeed?

AK: The whole idea about this IHAN project is that it is human-driven. Essential to this is the fact that nobody uses my data without my permission. We believe that we are showing the way forward in Europe with this. It is entirely different to a Facebook or Google model of data management, where they don’t ask permission to use my information. With IHAN, ‘Big Brother’ is not taking any data without my permission and I am controlling what data goes where and who is accessing it. And that’s what makes it truly revolutionary.


The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra

The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra is a future-oriented organisation that promotes Finland's competitiveness and the well-being of the Finnish people. We anticipate societal change, try out new operating models and accelerate business activities aimed at creating sustainable well-being.

Itämerenkatu 11-13
PO Box 160
00181 Helsinki

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