What data to share for the benefit of the asylum seekers?

Kata Kantola
Feb 18, 2019 · 8 min read

In September 2018, Inland began a collaboration project with Migri’s asylum unit, Kela (Finnish Social Insurance Institution) and TE-services (Finnish employment office). The project was set into moving under Experimentation Accelerator (Kokeilukiihdyttämö), a project organised under Experimental Finland (Kokeileva Suomi). The goal of the accelerator is to create a culture of experimentation in the state administration. Inland set out to participate with two ideas proposed by employees in Migri. The other project is called Qalendar.

Need for new solutions

People who have been granted asylum in Finland, need to visit several Finnish authorities. Many of these, such as Migri, TE-services and Kela, often need access to same or similar information in order to serve their customer. This means that a lot of re-locating and repeating of information is required during a person’s customership. Migri already collects a large amount of data during the asylum process. Certain data is shared with the other authorities, but some of it is not. This is for a number of reasons, such as legislation, lack of shared secure information infrastructure and lack of knowledge of each other’s processes and needs.

The initial vision was to help the authorities dealing with immigrants, through collaboratively developing ways to better use and share data among them. By doing this, the authorities could potentially foresee and react to e.g. customer needs and amounts, as well as plan regional placement of resources and design more individualised services based on already existing data. From societal perspective, the goal was to reach better level of collaboration and readiness needed to support smoother integration to the Finnish society. The customer, on the other hand, could avoid repeating the same information during every authority contact.


In November 2018, we conducted a workshop with participants from Migri, Kela, Te-office and Ely-keskus (Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment). The goal was to identify what information these organisations use and need, and how it could potentially be shared in the future. Another focus point was to figure out means to test the solution through an experiment, and later evaluate it. The workshop was divided into three sections: mapping of the current situation, ideating for future and developing the ideas into proposals. The work was done in groups of representatives from different organisations.

Workshop participants (+2 facilitators from Inland)

  • 6 experts from Migri
  • 5 experts from Kela
  • 4 experts from TE-office
  • 2 experts from TE-office, working on ELY-projects

01 What data is needed?

The first task was to map the information that benefits the operations of the authorities. Individual needs of each organisation were written down on post-its by the participants and collected on one shared canvas for the common discussion. The needs were later compiled into a list to use as reference in the development. The participants also discussed their needs regarding individual data and mass data. Generally, both mass data and individual data were found useful, but the benefits of individual data were underlined especially when it comes to improving the quality and speed of service provided to customers. Mass data was perceived to help facilitate overall preventive measures and resource management.

02 How could data be shared?

Participants documented their ideas for data distribution possibilities on post-its. Next, they considered the impact and ease of implementation from the perspective of the organisations. To prioritise the ideas according to these two measures, the ideas were placed on an impact/implementation matrix and discussed. This resulted in a mapping of development areas with biggest impact and easiest implementation.

03 Proposals

In the final task, participants reflected on matters such as target group, project ownership, experiment possibilities and evaluation of success. The initial ideas described below are based on fast ideation rounds, and thus are not ready for implementation as such. Next step for any of the proposals would require overcoming several restrictions when it comes to e.g. legislation and customer consent, which were not addressed at this stage.

Proposal 1 — Extension of UMA/UMAREK rights and transparency

Proposals by the first two groups were merged together as one proposal, due to their similarity.

1.1 Extension of UMA/UMAREK rights

The proposal’s main idea is the extension of user rights in Migri’s case management system UMA/UMAREK. Secondly, the group proposed improvement of authority letters and documentation, and thirdly, more efficient use of existing register data for the services of all the authorities. As the most important actions within these, clarification of information and regional cooperation groups were named.

1.2 Wider UMA/UMAREK transparency

Another group worked on a similar proposal about extended UMA/UMAREK rights, but saw that the most important development areas would include better cooperation with other authorities, and the involvement of clients in managing their own data.

Both groups proposed to begin by first expanding the access rights of a small pilot group, in order to address the accessibility of already existing information. This would serve as an experiment on how the information is used by the other authorities in practice, how easy it is to use, and how it impacts their service time.

Proposal 2 — Transfer of predetermined individual level information between organizations

The second proposal was to facilitate cross-border collaboration through a person, team or “information center”, enhance e-communication (e.g. chat channel, secure email), and collaboratively design customer management. They proposed that the first step would be to test the sharing of predetermined individual level information, such as language skills, between the organisations, through secure encrypted, email. The experiment would test e.g. the functionality of information flow and the usefulness of the data.

Proposal 3 — Building a collaboration forum

The last group experienced that better documentation, systematisation and monitoring of UMA/UMAREK would allow more efficient transfer of existing information. However, they prioritised the understanding of other authorities’ processes as a more impactful first step. In practice, this would mean e.g. a contact person with understanding of several organisations and their processes, building collaboration forums, or more thorough customer involvement. The group proposed to build a collaboration forum, where different actors learn from each other’s processes. The forum would test how raising awareness of other authorities’ processes improves the customer service.

Workshop outcomes

Two proposals were chosen for further development, and the responsibility for each proposal was given to one of the participating experts. This was to ensure that the ownership was kept with the organisations, and Inland’s role would decrease into a consulting role.

Several needs and solutions emerged during the workshop. The current and desired data needs were compiled into a canvas to provide an overview of the situation and to help prioritize the development as well as make comparisons. The canvas was used to list the information currently available for each organisation, the level of their visibility and editing rights, as well as the information that was deemed missing.

Next steps

The workshop emphasised the need to create a working group that could focus on the development of data sharing, as it is a large and important challenge that will require continuous and consistent work. Inland’s perceived role is to continue support the collaboration between the stakeholder organisations in the future. A pilot group for testing data sharing between authorities is in planning.

When we consider the possibilities of sharing data, it’s also necessary to acknowledge the numerous legal and ethical questions associated to collection and use of data in general. Collecting and storing data in order to complete legal functions doesn’t require user consent, but if sharing exceeds these functions, asking consent becomes necessary. In this context, this would be the case if data distribution extends to several authorities in the future. If this happens, it’s important to make sure that people understand what they agree to with their consent. And since organisations involved in this project work with people that come from different cultures and speak different languages, the comprehensibility is even more essential. We want to be able to share data in a legal and ethical manner, considering the needs of the people we serve, and making sure that by doing this, we are not compromising their fundamental rights. We want the asylum seekers using services of Migri, Kela and Te, to be able to trust that their data is safe, and used in a way that is favorable to them.

Project learnings

Besides the project outcomes so far, the process is naturally a learning experience.

1 Collaborate with experts

Although not a new learning for our team, the project demonstrates once again how collaborating with different authorities and substance experts brings out useful connections and new perspectives. By working together with different organisations, and both substance experts and designers, we are sharing knowledge, tools and a mindset.

2 Focus on the opportunity, not the constraint

This is not necessarily hard for designers to understand, but when it comes to civil servants, it’s often a different matter. The work done by Migri, Kela or Te-services is, understandably, not based on experimentation or creativity. It is important to facilitate collaboration in a way that helps people to move from what “has always been done” and “is impossible” to new ways and approaches.

3 Know your role

The project idea didn’t come from Inland, but from a person in Migri’s substance. Inland’s role was to get the project started by finding the right people to collaborate with and collecting key insights through a co-design workshop. Acknowledging this role from the beginning helped focus our efforts and keep the ownership outside of Inland.

4 Acknowledge that change takes time

When we started the project under Experimentation Accelerator, we had a set time scope and a vision. Even if it was not possible to produce a tangible experiment within the set deadline, we were able to map the the information needs of the authorities we collaborated with, generate ideas on how to share information and start building the infrastructure to collaborate on the matter. When it comes to ethics, complicated systems and even legislation, the change will not happen overnight. What matters is that the continuation is monitored and supported properly.


Inland is a design and innovation lab.


Inland is a design and innovation lab. Inland Design was part of the Finnish Immigration Service from the year 2017 to 2019. Since the beginning of 2020, the service designers of the Inland Design are working within the Ministry of the Interior.

Kata Kantola

Written by

Service Designer and MA student of Collaborative and Industrial Design in Aalto University


Inland is a design and innovation lab. Inland Design was part of the Finnish Immigration Service from the year 2017 to 2019. Since the beginning of 2020, the service designers of the Inland Design are working within the Ministry of the Interior.

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