Trust-M: Designing Inclusive & Trustworthy Digital Public Services for Migrants in Finland

Finland is known for exceptional levels of trust between government, institutions and individuals, as well as for rapid digitalization of public sector services. However, many migrants may not find digital public sector services to be accessible, inclusive or trustworthy. For better cultural and socioeconomic integration—and hence societal harmony—Finnish public sector has to engage with migrants in an inclusive and fair manner; therefore, the design of smart digital services needs to be mindful of equality, human rights, and diverse notions of trust in the public sector. Realizing this demands social scientific research on the notion of trust and human rights


The Trust-M project aims to create trustworthy digital public services for improved integration of migrants in Finland, hence strengthening Finnish society through increased inclusion, resilience of the labor market, and economic vibrance. More specific objectives include (1) understanding how the socially and culturally constructed notions of trust, inclusion and equality are manifest in present-day digital public sector services, (2) devising alternatives for novel digital public sector services that could nurture trust and respect human rights, particularly considering migrant women, and (3) producing a pilot version of a hybrid public sector service based on conversational interaction, together with the City of Espoo.


APPROACH. Trust-M will conduct ethnographic research and participatory design with migrant counseling service programs in the Cities of Espoo and Helsinki as well as with many other public and third-sector actors. Trust-M will design and pilot digital services using hybrid service design based on conversational chatbots and speech-based interaction. We will assess the implications and devise metrics for offering more accessible and trustworthy services for diverse migrant users. 


IMPACT. The trans-disciplinary nature of Trust-M produces knowledge for trustworthy and inclusive digital public sector services. The City of Espoo, as the main interaction partner, will ensure practical relevance for migrant services and promote societal impact. In the long-term, this project will empower migrant communities for successful cultural and socio-economic integration. The overall outcome of Trust-M is to offer key insights for designing, piloting, and evaluating trustworthy digital public services for diverse migrants in municipalities across Finland.

The project is a partnership between Aalto University, University of Helsinki, Tampere University, and City of Espoo, in collaboration with the City of Helsinki, City of Turku, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, Moniheli, CYF Digital, Speechly, IBM Consulting, and VoxAI, among others. 


The key project PI’s include Nitin Sawhney, Johanna Ylipulli, and Tom Bäckström (Aalto University), Aaro Tupasela and Suvi Sankari (University of Helsinki), Thomas Olsson (Tampere University), and Teemu Haapalehto (City of Espoo). 

The project has been awarded funding (12.09.2022) from the Academy of Finland’s Strategic Research Council (SRC) program in Security and Trust in the Age of Algorithms (SHIELD). Some details here:

 The 3.2 M € award will support this research consortia’s efforts from 2022-2025 (with 70% additional funding provided in the following 3 years).