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Accepted Paper:

Sustainable digitalisation of welfare systems: mission impossible?  
Paula Saikkonen (The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)) Marta Choroszewicz (University of Eastern Finland)

Short abstract:

Examining the digitalization of Finnish welfare systems, the paper stresses assessing its eco-social impact. Analysing policy documents, it explores digitalization's pros and cons and socio-technical aspects. Advocating an integrated approach to sustainability, it challenges techno-solutionism.

Long abstract:

Digitalisation is often promoted in welfare systems with the aim of achieving economic sustainability. However, the effects of digitalisation on environmental and social sustainability have received less attention. This paper argues that environmental and social sustainability should be scrutinised together when implementing digitalisation of welfare systems. Furthermore, the highly urgent sustainability transformation cannot be realised without involving every sector of society.

This paper focuses on the digitalisation of the Finnish welfare systems. Finland represents a Nordic welfare state and stands as a forerunner in social sustainability. Finland aims to be the first carbon-neutral welfare society by 2035, making sustainability issues relevant for the ongoing social security reform prepared by the parliamentary committee (2020-2027).

The paper analyses the policy documents of social security reform to investigate the digitalisation of welfare systems. It scrutinises suggestions on digitalisation of welfare systems, how advantages or disadvantages are recognised, whether other dimensions than economic dimension is discussed, what problematic aspects of digitalization are mentioned, and if digitalisation was interpreted only as a technical change or if its socio-technical nature was acknowledged. Finally, the paper discusses what sustainable digitalisation would require, including the values that promote sustainable digitalisation.

It is important to note that technologically informed futures are often influenced by a techno-solutionist approach and therefore presented as seamless and sterile scenarios that are detached from everyday messy reality of people’s lives and needs. The paper concludes that digitalisation of welfare systems should be approached with a holistic perspective that considers all dimensions of sustainability together.

Traditional Open Panel P015
Fostering socially and ecologically sustainable digitalisation of welfare states
  Session 1 Friday 19 July, 2024, -