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Recent report examines the potential for machine translation in cross-border data exchange

Publication date 14.4.2023 15.25 | Published in English on 17.4.2023 at 12.23
Press release

The project ‘World’s smoothest cross-border mobility and daily life through digitalisation’, pursued in conjunction with the Finnish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers, has completed its report on the potential for machine translation.

 The report is part of the project’s broader objective of streamlining the daily life and mobility of citizens and companies across borders by facilitating the exchange of data between the authorities in the Nordic and Baltic countries. The project published its final report of the baseline study on cross-border everyday life at the end of 2021.

One of the challenges highlighted in the baseline study concerned the fact that statute data and details of study attainments are inadequately available in languages other than the official languages of the countries concerned. This makes cross-border everyday life more difficult in many ways. The newly completed report helps in the consideration of potential for machine translation and in assessing machine translation services based on the intended purpose. Machine translation can enable the translation of information into several languages in a cost-effective manner.

The report recommends those considering machine translation to assess the situation from at least the following perspectives:

  1. It is important for the selected translation service to match the type of text to be translated. How complex or sector-specific are the texts, how much text do they contain, and what are the requested source and target languages?

  2. Machine translation engines do not understand cultural differences. For best results, the texts should be well structured both grammatically and logically. The texts should also match the technology behind the machine translation service. Even the most high-quality machine translation engines do not translate accurately in all contexts.

  3. Hybrid translation is a process where the text is first translated by a machine and then reviewed and edited by a professional. This kind of human-machine interaction can be called human-in-the-loop (HITL).

  4. Machine translation engines do not automatically recognise code-like text fragments. Codes can only be translated with certain types of code-based machine translation engines. This means that the machine cannot automatically convert the code ‘KHJ843287’ in the student's study records into a specific course titled ‘Introduction to Financial Administration’. In technical terms, however, it is possible to build a translation engine that can convert code directly into text.

  5. Some services share data with third parties. When considering the use of machine translation services, the GDPR must also be taken into account. If the service stores data, the ownership and management of the data must be examined. It should also be noted that open-source machine translation services may allow access to data for all service users. If the data in question should not be shared with third parties, these kinds of machine translation service providers should be excluded.

  6. The EU regulation on the European approach to artificial intelligence and the update of the coordinated plan on artificial intelligence guarantee the safety and fundamental rights of citizens and companies. The EU approach to AI aims to increase citizens' trust in adopting new technologies and to encourage companies to develop such technologies

The report is available in English: World’s Smoothest Cross-Border Mobility and Daily Life Through Digitalisation

Additional information

Digital and Population Data Services Agency, Anne Kari, Chief Specialist, tel. +358 503 03 9838, firstname.lastname[at]

Project working group leaders:

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 legislative data:
Ministry of Justice, Tiina Husso, Project Coordinator, tel. +358 295 15 0287, firstname.lastname[at]

What is the project about?

Finland served as the President of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2021. The Presidency project ‘World’s smoothest cross-border mobility and daily life through digitalisation’ was launched at the start of 2021. The aim of the project, which will continue until 2023, is 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 will create an operating model and good practices to strengthen and enhance cross-border exchange of data. The project will be carried out between 2021 and 2023.
The Digital and Population Data Services Agency will play a key role in the implementation of the project. It will be in charge of the Presidency project and coordinate the work of the project’s working groups. At the start of the project, a report on the current state of citizens’ daily life across borders will be prepared. A common handbook to strengthen and enhance cross-border exchange of data will be the main outcome of the project.

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.