Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Finland's population registry drops racially homogeneous website header

Diversity or lack of it can be manifested in many ways, including on websites. Finland's Population Register Centre (in Finnish: Väestörekisterikeskus) changed the look of its website which was previously adorned with a header that lacked racial and ethnic diversity but showed diversity on other grounds. The site is now without a header.

Photographs displayed on the now-dropped header of the home page of the population registry showed diversity on grounds such as age, sex and gender but lacked ethnic and racial diversity.

I observed and pointed out in a blog post, which I sent as feedback to the population registry in October 2013, that the registry's website excludes visible minorities. The website, in my view, portrayed Finland as a racially homogeneous country -- despite the fact that Finland has its share of visible minorities. I stated in the blog post that according to Statistics Finland, nearly 12 percent of people with foreign origin living permanently in Finland in 2012 were of African descent and about one quarter were of Asian origin. And that in my opinion, the header of the website of the population registry suggested that non-whites were not part of Finland's population structure. I recommended that the header should be updated to include racial and ethnic diversity that is representative of Finland's population structure.

About two months after I sent feedback to the Population Register Centre through the feedback section of its website the header in question was taken off altogether (see screenshot below).

It is unclear whether or not the change was made as a result of my feedback, since I got no response from the centre.

Regardless, I welcome the decision to update the layout of the website -- although I would have loved to see the header updated to show ethnic and racial diversity, not taken off completely.

The population structure of Finland has changed over the past couple of years. It is important that websites of organizations in the public and private sector which use images that appear to have been carefully chosen to show diversity reflect diversity on all grounds, including racial and ethnic diversity. In this age of information technology, websites send loud messages. National institutions and agencies should  pay more attention to the images they display on their websites. A racially homogeneous header on the website of a public agency like the population registry screams exclusion to observant viewers.

It is worthy to mention that other websites of government agencies such as that of Kela, Finland's social insurance institute still blatantly exclude images of non-whites -- the last time I checked. And Kela has numerous images on its website. Such exclusion, in my perspective, is reflective of the level of acceptance of people from different racial, ethnic and cultural groups in broader Finnish society. Acceptance of diversity is critical on moral and economic grounds.

See the header that was taken off, here.

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