Helsinki the World’s Happiest Smart City
Explore the link between happiness and smartness, citizen-centric development, and the trust and transparency that contribute to a thriving environment. Learn why Helsinki is the perfect testbed for smart solutions and high quality of life.
4 min read
Listen to the HEL of a business! podcast
Helsinki is the happiest city and smartest testbed for sustainability and a good life
Helsinki, the capital of Finland, has earned a reputation as the happiest city in the world. Year after year, it ranks high in happiness, smartness, and innovativeness. But how is this possible in a region known for its challenging weather conditions? The answer lies in Helsinki’s unique blend of happiness, smartness, and sustainability.
The link between happiness and innovation in Helsinki
The World Happiness Report
“Kel onni on, se onnen kätkeköön,” wrote Eino Leino, a Finnish poet in 1900. Loosely translated it means that if you are happy, you shouldn’t let it show. And that’s been a successful strategy for the Finns for many years.
Then in 2018, the World Happiness Report declared Finland as the happiest country in the world, and Helsinki has consistently topped the report since then. The region’s residents may not always show it on the outside, but there is an inner happiness that stems from the city’s ability to make everything work seamlessly.
In Finland, everything just works. Even if you are not smiling on the outside you’re smiling on the inside.Sami Kazi
Senior Principal Scientist and Research Team Lead, VTT
Smart City Rankings
Helsinki excels not only in happiness but also in other rankings. The Helsinki-Uusimaa region has been recognized as the most innovative region in Europe. According to the Smart City Index, Helsinki is the eighth smartest city in the world. This index considers not only economic and technological data but also the residents’ perceptions of their city’s smartness.
The index defines a smart city as “an urban setting that applies technology to enhance the benefits and diminish the shortcomings of urbanisation for its citizens.” What differentiates this index from many others, is that it considers also the residents’ perceptions of the smartness of their city, as well as economic and technological data.
Helsinki’s sustainable and citizen-centric approach
Enabling innovation and creativity
Helsinki serves as a real-life living lab, where people and companies can test new solutions. Participatory design and citizen-centric decision-making are deeply ingrained in the city’s DNA. The city’s strategy focuses on making life more comfortable and effortless for its residents, attracting companies to pilot their innovative solutions. This approach empowers citizens to actively shape their environment.
Passion for a better city
Helsinki residents are passionate about improving their city. Movements like Cleaning Day originated in Helsinki, and districts like Kalasatama are co-developed by residents, companies, and the city. The Agile Piloting Program, born in Kalasatama, engages citizens in pilot projects and has become a model adopted by other cities in Finland and beyond.
Helsinki is a city full of people waiting for the revolution. They really want to make the world a better place, and they’re trying to lead by example.Bruce Oreck
Former Ambassador of the United States to Finland
The forerunner smart city
Helsinki’s ecosystem is extremely well-connected, with different innovation hubs collaborating instead of competing. In an article from the New York Times, former Ambassador of the United States to Finland, Bruce Oreck explains, “Helsinki is a city full of people waiting for the revolution. They really want to make the world a better place, and they’re trying to lead by example. Which is a paradox, because Finns are decidedly not showy people.”
Business thrives in Greater Helsinki, offering superb access to talent and a strong emphasis on quality of life. Startup Genome recognizes the ease of doing business in the region, given its pioneering network technology, and global leadership in 5G and 6G development.
Trust, transparency, and happiness
The importance of trust
When Reader’s Digest carried out their famous wallet experiment, in Helsinki the wallet was returned, with all contents intact, 11 times out of 12. Honesty truly is the best policy, especially in Helsinki.
Trust, transparency, and safety are fundamental pillars of Finnish society. Helsinki boasts high levels of trust, both between people and in the government. This trust contributes significantly to happiness and creates a safe and predictable business environment.
“I would say [trust] contributes significantly to happiness. If you know you are in a safe, trusted environment I don’t see why you would not be happy”, says Kazi.
Transparency and open data
Transparency is a core principle in Helsinki. Rules, regulations, and decision-making processes are openly shared, and data is made readily available for public use. Open data fosters trust and allows individuals and businesses to build innovative solutions that enhance the lives of citizens and the city itself.
When you bring people together and give them an environment in which to be creative, the magic starts to happen. Cities become functional; society becomes happy.Sami Kazi
Senior Principal Scientist and Research Team Lead, VTT
It also means that you should expect very few surprises, for example as a business owner. The same rules and regulations apply to everyone and the business environment is predictable and transparent.
Transparency also means that as much information as possible is openly shared with everyone. You have open access to the aforementioned rules and regulations, the city’s decision-making processes and decisions are publicly shared, and best of all, data is openly and freely available.
“The moment a city opens data for the public it’s immediately saying, “I’m offering you the opportunity to trust me”. So open data by anybody leads to trust from the other party”, explained Sami Kazi.
In Helsinki, things just work. The city’s focus on happiness, smartness, sustainability, and transparency creates an environment where people can live their best lives and businesses can thrive.
Apply to become one of the Founders to Finland!
Establish your business in Helsinki to access the EU market, join an innovative tech ecosystem in a value-driven society, and enjoy a famously excellent work-life balance. Experience business and life in the capital of the world’s happiest country.
Contact Helsinki Partners
If you are interested in learning more about Helsinki and its possibilities – please contact us via the form here. We’ll make sure to get back to you within a few working days.