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New handbook supporting data exchange across borders is aimed at smoother international daily life

Publication date 9.11.2023 11.03
Press release

The handbook published today, 9 November 2023, contains tips and good practices that have been gathered together to make it possible to develop cross-border data exchange and interoperability of information systems in the Nordic and Baltic countries. By many measures, these countries are already at the forefront of digitalisation, and people move actively across the borders for reasons such as studies and work. The handbook offers information to Nordic and Baltic officials on what to take into account to enable smoother cross-border exchange of the information that is important for the smooth running of daily life.

“People's everyday life is easier if the key information moves smoothly between the authorities and other actors also from one country to another. This applies particularly to people who live near the border area and use services of two countries or people who move to another country for reasons such as work or studies. Currently, students’ achievement records or patients’ health information are not always available smoothly in another country. This may lead to problems and in urgent cases even cause hazardous situations. It is also important that information related to the other country’s legislation is easy to find, for example, so that working as an entrepreneur in that country is possible,” says Project Manager Anne Kari from the Digital and Population Data Services Agency. 

Aiming at smoother daily life between countries

Tips for those working with cross-border transfer of data have been compiled in the now published handbook. The Handbook helps them identify networks, initiatives and sources of funding to support their work. It also provides examples that could be used in the development of cross-border collaboration. 

The Handbook is intended as support for all Nordic and Baltic officials who are developing processes or information systems within their own organisations or between organisations within one or many countries, or who are promoting digitalisation at the national or international level. 

Smooth transfer of data requires interoperable systems

“For a long time, the Nordic and Baltic countries have been working to ensure that the data that is central to living in another country gets transferred smoothly between countries. The objective is to facilitate mobility between countries. For example, there are challenges caused by different legislation, information systems and concepts in the different countries,” Mikko Mattinen, Head of International affairs at the Digital and Population Data Services Agency, describes the current situation.

Smoother exchange of data requires a change in the ways of thinking and operating, but also development of the information systems and creation of common standards. 

“Cross-border interoperability should be taken into account in all development of systems. This requires cooperation at the national and international level. It means that the systems, standards and solutions of the neighbouring countries are also taken into account at the planning stage. Data can be made to move smoothly between countries and their systems only if the national authorities, experts of the field and citizens have been involved in the international development work. Systems that are genuinely interoperable and make people’s daily life easier can be achieved only by taking into account all these parties,” Mattinen continues.

PICTURE: Key players in cross-border data exchange: international co-operation, national authorities, professionals and citizens

PICTURE: Key players in cross-border data exchange: international co-operation, national authorities, professionals and citizens

“In spite of differences, the Nordic and Baltic countries have many similarities and, above all, a willingness to cooperate. As authorities, our duty is to build an interoperable infrastructure and common standards. This handbook is also aimed at supporting the daily life of those people who live, use services, work or study in another Nordic or Baltic country,” says Project Manager Anne Kari.

More information about the project and the Handbook

Digital and Population Data Services Agency, Anne Kari, Project Manager, tel. +358 29 5535 583, firstname.lastname[at]

Mobility of study attainment data: 
Finnish National Agency for Education, Riikka Rissanen, Project Manager, tel. +358 295 33 1059, firstname.lastname[at]

Mobility of health data:
Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, Minna Sinkkonen, Development Manager, tel. +358 295 24 7032, firstname.lastname[at]

Mobility of statute data: 
Ministry of Justice, Aki Hietanen, Development Manager, tel. +358 29 5150 510, firstname.lastname[at]

What is going on?

Finland served as the President of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2021. Between 2021 and 2023, the presidency project “World’s smoothest cross-border mobility and daily life through digitalisation” was in operation. Its aim has been to streamline the daily life and mobility of citizens and companies across borders by enhancing the exchange of information between the authorities in Nordic and Baltic countries. 

The project consists of three work packages:

  • Studying in another Nordic or Baltic country
  • Use of health services in another Nordic or Baltic country
  • Versatile use of the Nordic and Baltic legal databases

The Digital and Population Data Services Agency leads the implementation of the presidency project and coordinates the work of the project's working groups. The project is owned by the Ministry of Finance, which also steers its implementation. The administrative branches of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Ministry of Education and Culture, and the Ministry of Justice are also involved in the project implementation process.