MyData 2016 blog


Interview with Emilia Hjelm

Everyone knows that what makes a conference great is the people who are involved. In the months leading up to MyData 2016, we will be using this blog to post interviews with event organizers, speakers, and participants. Consider it a sneak preview of all the awesomeness that will be convening in Helsinki August 31 – September 2!

For our first segment, MyData researcher Molly Schwartz interviews Emilia Hjelm, the MyData 2016 event producer. Tune in to the audio recording below or read the transcript to learn about what Emilia was up to before joining the MyData team, what you can look forward to at MyData 2016, and why Helsinki is an amazing place to be in August. Then stay tuned — interviews with our keynote speakers are up next!

Molly Schwartz: Hi, my name is Molly Schwartz and I’m one of the researchers here working on the My Data project, and I’m thrilled for one of our first blog posts for our My Data 2016 event, to be talking with Emilia Hjelm, who was just brought on last week as our event producer. Emilia, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and, specifically, what were some of the things you were up to before you came on as our event producer?

Emilia Hjelm: Yeah, sure. I’m a computer scientist. I’ve been working on my masters thesis for the University of Helsinki, where I’ve been working for the last three years with children’s science education and computer science outreach programs. I’ve been studying how gender effects the teaching of and learning of computer science and I also study in the Aalto University, Masters level in Engineering. For example, privacy laws and computer laws. I already had an interest of My Data before I joined the team.

Molly Schwartz: Okay, wow. That’s really cool, so it sounds like you’re bringing a lot of experience from the technological side and kind of the policy side and also from the outreach and event planning side. You said that you were already somewhat familiar with the My Data project before you came on. What kind of event do you think this is going to be, just so everybody knows this is the first big kind of International event that we’ve hosted around My Data? In 2012, a lot of the same people, who were the ones who started organizing this My Data event, were behind the Okay Fest that was held in Helsinki, but this is the first really big My Data event. What kind of things do you think people will be able to expect from this event?

Emilia Hjelm: What I am eager to see is that the event’s going to be a hub for really many different angles to the subject, and I hope that involving both business and start ups and people and organizations will bring something really unique to the table.

Molly Schwartz: Yeah, I definitely think so. Just like the OK Fest was a few years ago, this event is also going to be co-created, so I know there’s already lots of ways in which people can participate in these early stages to help shape the event be what they want it to be. How would you advise people to participate now in these stages and how could they get in touch with you if they want to have some input into this My Data event?

Emilia Hjelm: Well, I hope that people will participate as much as they can, because, for example, shaping the program is a huge deal, so every insight is really valuable and at the moment we are having an open call for ideas at the web page,, where you can leave your suggestions. For example, if you have in mind a great person to speak or you want to hold a workshop or any kind of an idea, then we have an e-mail address,, where you can tell about yourself and your ideas and what you want to do.

Molly Schwartz: My impression is that there’s a lot of ways to engage. Just to backtrack a little bit, how would you, in general, describe the initial movement that led to the creation of this event?

Emilia Hjelm: In a way, you can think of it as an answer to all the questions that are raised with big data, because we know that many kinds of personal information is being collected by several parties. For example, we have health information and loyalty cards information, what you buy from the grocery store and everything, and at the moment the situation is so that the gatherer decides what to do with the data. But, actually, the person, himself or herself, doesn’t have a say on how the data is used, and My Data is an initiative to turn that relationship around, so that the person whose personal data that is, is in charge of authorizing the use of the data and can, for example, give it away to third parties or so on.

Molly Schwartz: I know a lot of times we talk about it as kind of a style of personal data management or a model that’s more human centric, so we can have a bit more control of what pieces of our personal data are created and how we can then make use of them. This whole model involves a lot of different parties. As you mentioned before, there are tech start ups, there are regulators who are involved, that new general data protection regulation was just passed. There’s still a two year implementation period and people don’t know how that’s going to play out. So something like this My Data model offers some innovation or some vision, I think, for people. Importantly, it also involves individuals, themselves, and I’m really hoping that this event will bring together all these different parties so that we can early on with all the data protection regulations start formulating something that works.

This event will be held in August in Helsinki Finland. What would you say are some of your favorite things about Helsinki in the summertime that people can look forward to?

Emilia Hjelm: Summer in Finland is really great. If you haven’t experienced Northern summer, you have to do it. We have so much light, the sun don’t go down even during the night.

Molly Schwartz: I also heard rumors that they’ll be bringing the open sauna back.

Emilia Hjelm: Yeah, definitely! It’s a crucial part of Finnish culture to have sauna, so I’m hoping that we could have during the festival week, a cool sauna experience in many different places around Helsinki and the nearest cities as well.

Molly Schwartz: I think that would be super special and maybe we’d even get a chance for a little swim.

Emilia Hjelm: Yeah!

Molly Schwartz: Okay, well thank you so much Emilia, this was great. Again, welcome to the team, and for everybody who is listening in, please feel free to get in touch. You can visit our website at and there you can sign up for the newsletter and as Emilia mentioned, you can give ideas in our call for ideas, and we look forward to hopefully seeing you in Helsinki.

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