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The transfer of study attainment and health data between the Nordic and Baltic countries will be improved - The objective is to achieve a smoother everyday life between countries

Publication date 30.11.2021 14.10
Press release

For a long time, the Nordic and Baltic countries have done a lot of work to ensure that the data that is central to living in another country gets transferred smoothly between countries. Such information includes study attainment and health related data. The objective is to facilitate mobility between countries. Challenges to data mobility include different legislations, non-interoperability of information systems, and conceptual differences between different countries.

This is evident in the current state survey prepared by a project led by the Digital and Population Data Services Agency, which will be published today on 30 November 2021. The project is part of the activities of Finland's Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2021. The project aims to streamline the everyday life and mobility of people and companies across borders by promoting the exchange of data between authorities and other relevant actors in the Nordic and Baltic countries. 

‘The Nordic and Baltic countries are in many respects the leading countries in digitalisation. People also move actively across national borders, for example, for studies and work. In these situations, everyday life becomes easier if key data is shared between the authorities and other actors in the countries. Such data includes study attainment, essential health and prescription data. The discoverability of legislative data of another country is also important in order to operate in that country as an entrepreneur, for instance. The Presidency project focuses on these three entities,’ says Minister of Local Government Sirpa Paatero, who will chair the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2021.

The current state survey highlights that data exchange already exists between some countries, for example on population, health and study attainment data. Examples of this include the Nordic Migration Agreement, exchange of prescription data between Finland and Estonia and the transfer of study attainment data between Finland, Sweden and Norway. ‘The exchange of data does not yet cover all Nordic and Baltic countries, and we want to contribute to this goal in the project,’ explains Torbjörn Sandell, Project Manager at the Digital and Population Data Services Agency.  

‘The challenge often lies in the fact that even though the necessary digital infrastructure exists, the data systems in different countries do not yet work together sufficiently. The language and glossary used in the systems are not consistent and the data has been filled in differently. Some of the challenges also relate to different legislation in the countries. Resolving these issues requires determined co-operation between the countries and a clear common goal and strong will,’ continues Sandell. 

Shared study, health and legal data makes everyday life easier 

At the moment, the exchange of study attainment data, for example, is more digitalised in higher education institutions than in secondary education. Finland, Sweden and Norway participate in the EU-based EMREX system and exchange data about higher education studies completed in another country. 

‘Most of the study attainment data is in a machine-readable format, which facilitates further development. However, the study attainment data often lack so called descriptive data, which makes it difficult to compare their contents,’ say Riikka Rissanen and Petteri Pulli from the Finnish National Agency for Education. ‘We hope to extend the EMREX system to all Nordic and Baltic countries and to have the use extended to include upper secondary level study attainment data,’ Rissanen continues.

Another issue that facilitates people's mobility is the transfer of key health and prescription data between countries. It improves patient safety, for example, if a person suddenly gets treated in another country or needs more prescription medicines. 

‘Some European countries are in a situation where medicines prescribed in one country can be supplied in another country. In addition to Finland and Estonia, the exchange of prescription data between Finland and Croatia and Finland and Portugal is already in use. The greatest challenges in the transfer of health data are related to legislation, the non-interoperability of information systems and semantic interoperability. These can also be challenging within one country when several different information systems are used,’ says Minna Sinkkonen from the National Institute for Health and Welfare. 

In finding data related to legislation, the most common challenge is that obtaining data on the legislation of other Nordic and Baltic countries now requires extensive language skills, because there are few translations of legislative texts. ‘One of the objectives of the project is to produce a legal data search tool that can be used by people in their mother tongue when they are, for example, working, studying or travelling in different Nordic and Baltic countries,’ says Head of Development Aki Hietanen from the Ministry of Justice.   

The current status survey, which has now been published, brings together the current state of data mobility and serves as a starting point for further work on the project and for finding a common direction. 

Read current state survey ”Baseline study of cross-border data exchange in Nordic and Baltic countries”:

Further information 

Digital and Population Data Services Agency, Development Manager Torbjörn Sandell, tel. +358 (0)295 535 299, firstname.lastname[at] 

On study attainment data mobility:  
Finnish National Agency for Education, Project Manager Riikka Rissanen, tel. +358 (0)295 331 059, firstname.lastname[at]

On health data mobility: 
National Institute for Health and Welfare, Development Manager Minna Sinkkonen, tel. +358 (0)295 247 032, firstname.lastname[at]

On legislative data mobility: 
Ministry of Justice, Project Manager István Rytkönen, tel. +358 (0)295 150 063, firstname.lastname[at]

What is the project about? 

Finland will be the President of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2021. At the beginning of the year, the Presidency project “World’s smoothest cross-border mobility and daily life through digitalisation” was launched. Its aim is to streamline the everyday life and mobility of people and companies across borders by promoting the exchange of data between authorities in the Nordic countries. The project will create an operating model and good practices to strengthen and enhance cross-border exchange of data. The project will last three years and will run from 2021 to 2023. 

The Digital and Population Data Services Agency plays a key role in the implementation of the project. The Agency will lead the implementation of the Presidency project and co-ordinate the work of the project’s working groups. At the beginning of the project, a report on the current state of people’s everyday life across borders will be prepared. The main output of the project will be a joint operating model and good practices to strengthen and enhance cross-border exchange of data. 

The Ministry of Finance owns the project and guides 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 implementation.