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An analytics/artificial intelligence study of the Skills Centre for Immigrants

In 2021−2024, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland will be studying the way in which immigrants in Espoo use various public services.

Below, we answer questions that we believe the study’s target group, i.e. Espoo’s residents with an immigrant background, may have.

1. Why do you analyse people’s personal information?

We will not be analysing personal information. All personal information, such as name, identity number and address, is encrypted when retrieved from authorities’ registers. The encrypted data is then transferred to the research environment and added to a large dataset. The researchers will only analyse this large dataset.

Thus, individuals cannot be identified at any point from the data being analysed. Authorities, such as the City of Espoo, Omnia Skills Centre and Kela, will not have access to the research data. In other words, we are not creating any sort of a ‘monitoring system’ to view the information of individual clients. VTT will take every precaution to ensure data protection and individuals’ privacy.

The study aims to help authorities to better understand what type of services immigrants require in different situations in order to find work and integrate more easily. Artificial intelligence is an efficient and secure way of analysing large datasets. Conducting research like this without AI would not be possible.

2. Why do you want to focus on immigrants’ integration and the integration services in particular?

The study has an important social goal: to improve immigrants’ integration into Finnish society. We want to increase awareness of how services intended for immigrants work and how they should be further developed.

Integration is promoted by various authorities. Officially, municipalities are responsible for providing integration services, but the work is carried out by several different sectors within individual municipalities. Furthermore, some government agencies and organisations have their own roles in this. If we want to find out how well the integration services are working, we must gather information from several organisations.

We hope that the study will provide us with a better understanding about the types of training that immigrants need during different stages of their integration, among other things. We want to learn how the integration and employment of different client groups can be supported in a more personalised way. Successful integration will lead to faster employment, which in turn creates well-being for both individuals and society as a whole.

3. How will you ensure data protection?

All data processing will be done with the utmost care, ensuring data protection. All personal information will remain secret. This has been guaranteed with existing mechanisms. An individual cannot be identified from the research data at any point.

Personal information (name, identity number, address, etc.) is encrypted during data retrieval, i.e. before the data is transferred to the research environment. The research environment is a place where data refined from the personal information is studied.

The City of Espoo, Omnia and Statistics Finland are in charge of transferring the data to the environment using encrypted data transfer connections.

The data is studied in Statistics Finland’s Fiona environment, which is an extremely secure research environment. It can only be accessed by specifically nominated researchers. A user-specific note is recorded in the log every time data is viewed or processed. Statistics Finland will be constantly monitoring the log, and any suspicious actions will be looked into without delay with a low threshold.

In addition to this, VTT and Statistics Finland will check the findings gained from the data before they are transferred out of the Fiona environment. The research data will not leave the environment at any time, and the researchers are not allowed to use any other environment for the analytics apart from Fiona.

4. Whose information will be used in the study?

Two groups will be formed for the study:

  1. Clients of Omnia Skills Centre for Immigrants
  2. Immigrants living in Espoo who have never been clients of the Skills Centre.

The control group will be formed by selecting people who have similar background variables to the group consisting of Skills Centre clients. This means that the clients in the two groups will have similar grounds for their residence permits and unemployment histories and they have used similar public services.

The Skills Centre is estimated to have roughly 600 clients annually. Therefore, over the five-year research period, a group of approximately 3,000 people will be formed. The group will include clients of TE Services with an immigrant background who have a varied education and employment history and who have had difficulties in finding work.

A similarly sized group (approximately 3,000 people) will be formed as a control group. This means that the study will combine information from about 6,000 people.

5. What type of information will be collected during the study?

The study will combine the following client information about Espoo’s residents with an immigrant background:

  • background variables, such as age, gender, marital status and number of children in the family;
  • education and skills (general and vocational labour market training);
  • income, tax and benefits;
  • information about service use and unemployment history (e.g. work try-outs, internships, establishment of TE Services’ clientship, job seeking, employment, employer, employment history, ability to work);
  • social assistance (including discretionary social assistance), rehabilitation services and special reimbursement of medicine expenses;
  • possibly general grounds for residence permit or right of residence (work, studies, family, international protection, other) – it will turn out during the year 2021 if also this information can be combined to the study;
  • Omnia’s student register/Omnia Skills Centre’s information about motivation to study and find employment, family relationships and social networks, etc.
  • information about the use of the City of Espoo social and health services (number of visits and diagnoses, no reasons of the visits)

6. How long will you continue to collect data and how long will you keep it?

Data will be collected four times per year for a total of five years.  During the first data collection round, a person’s background information starting from 2009 will be collected, and the collection will continue until 2024.

The data will be destroyed five years after the project has ended, in 2029.

7. What is the period when data will be collected?

Data will be collected as part of the study from January 2009 to December 2024. The Skills Centre for Immigrants has been operating since the beginning of 2019, and therefore data on its operations will be available for the years 2019–2024. However, information on immigrants’ background variables will be collected from 2009 onwards.

8. How do I know whether my own or my client’s information is included in the experiment?

If you are a client of the Skills Centre, your information will be included, because data will be collected from all the Skills Centre’s clients. All study data will come from the use of the Skills Centre or other services provided by the authorities. This means that no data is collected purely for the study, and instead the study is conducted based on data that would be collected in any case.

Whether you are in the control group or not cannot be verified, because individuals cannot be identified from the research material. However, if you know that you lived in Espoo in 2009 or have lived there since and have used the services of e.g. Kela, the Tax Administration, TE Services or the City of Espoo in or after 2009, it is possible that your information is included in the study. It will turn out during the year 2021 if also general grounds for residence permit or right of residence (work, studies, family, international protection, other) from the Finnish Immigration Service can be combined to the study.

See also the answers to questions 4 and 5.

9. Can I prohibit the use of my information in the study?

No, you cannot. The impact assessment will be done as a register-based study. This means that the study will only be based on information gathered when clients use normal services. In other words, no additional surveys or interviews will be conducted with the study subjects for the purposes of this study.

The study will also have no effect on the services or benefits that the study subjects may receive. The study subjects will, therefore, continue to receive the same services and benefits that they would do were they not part of the study.

10. What kind of effects will the study have on the subjects?

The study will have no effect on individual people.

11. How can I find out what sort of information has been stored about me in the systems taking part in the study? Can I request to see information about me?

The research team will process data from personal data registers included in the study in a pseudonymised form, i.e. encrypted without any identifiers. This means that data from different registers cannot be identified, because the identifiers (name, identity number, etc.) have been removed.

Every agency providing data for the study maintains their own client data register. Therefore, such requests must be made separately to each register holder, i.e. service provider. You can make a request to view your personal information in the systems taking part in the study in the same way that these requests are normally made.

  • Send a request that you have personally signed to a specific authority’s registry in order to view the information the authority has in its register about you.
  • Each agency has their own, detailed instructions on how personal information may be requested.