Aihearkisto: Articles in English

Slowly, but surely, towards total sanitation in Ho, Ghana

The City of Lahti and Ho Local Municipality sister city cooperation began in 2010 with a focus on sanitation and environmental issues. The cooperation coordinated by Lahti University of Applied Sciences now continues with a new phase for 2017-2018. In this article, the former project coordinator Anna Aalto and the current coordinator Maarit Virtanen reflect on the achievements so far and the future opportunities.

Authors: Anna Aalto and Maarit Virtanen

Anna Aalto has acted as the project coordinator for Lahti – Ho sister city program in 2010 – 2014, and visited Ho again as a sanitation expert in 2017. “When I first visited Ho in 2010, it was my first visit to Sub-Saharan Africa. I could barely understand the dialect, never mind the customs and codes of conduct involving traditional chiefs, opinion leaders, seniority-based hierarchies and a culture of collectivism. Little did I know back then, that seven years later, I would be returning to the town for the tenth time and be greeted as a Grandma – an honourable title for a retired coordinator with an advisory role.”

“Looking at the past seven years, it is easy to note that the city is growing and the society is progressing. The outlook of the city is transforming with grand hotel schemes, new office blocks, modernised central market and developing urban waste removal services. Street naming programme has finally succeeded and most places in the town centre finally have an address. While demonstrating the rising wealth of the middle-class, the growing suburbs also raise the demand for public services and road development.”

Figure 1. Ho and Adeklu Mountain (photo Anna Aalto)

Despite the changes, a lot of tradition is still present. Agriculture remains the backbone of local economy and the development of agricultural sector is a key driver in the municipality’s economic development plans. The concept of ‘African time’ is also alive and well. Programmes tend to start one hour (or more) late and plans are interrupted by rain, as usual.

Attitudes, norms and a culture of dependency hinder toilet ownership

There is still no wastewater treatment available in the Ho region and solid waste management consists mainly of dumping waste at dumpsites. People lack access to improved sanitation in their homes, work places and schools. In fact, the adoption rate of household toilets in Ghana is still relatively low especially due to the common practise of shared toilets and the absence of strong socio-cultural norm that would encourage toilet ownership. In addition, the cultural acceptability of the widely advocated pit latrine technologies is low due to the offensive odours and hot vapour associated with the spreading of diseases.

Over the years, various sanitation development programmes with international donors have come and gone; the preceding Urine-Diverting Dry Toilet (UDDT) school pilot (2010-2014) of ours among them. The development programme paradigm has slowly shifted from donor-driven to community-led approach. In 2010, the common concept of programmes was one where a large international donor would identify beneficiaries and provide a facility of their choice. This approach has greatly increased the access to improved sanitation. Nevertheless, the challenge comes in with the ownership aspect. People come to expect that someone else will also maintain the toilet, since they have provided it. Poorly maintained facilities often become abandoned. For example, water closets are provided for schools without continuous access to water for flushing. A common sight is an improved pit latrine that has filled up the underground vaults, smells to high heavens and is left unused.

Community-driven approach is becoming mainstream in sanitation development

The lack of maintenance and even usage of many donor-provided toilet facilities has been acknowledged, leading to new types of sanitation development programmes. In 2013, the Ho Municipal Assembly started implementing the national Community Led Total Sanitation programme mobilising rural communities to eliminate open defecation. By now, six communities out of around one hundred are declared Open Defecation Free (ODF). Work continues with four dedicated officials that target four communities at the time to bring the change forward.

As we witnessed in some of the new ODF communities on our latest visit in May 2017, the change in attitude is possible. There is a sense of pride of the toilets constructed for all households with local materials and initiative. The community-led approach is now coming to the Ho township with Urban Sanitation Programme addressing the significant lack of household toilet facilities in the urban area. People building houses often neglect to construct a toilet facility and use communal ones. A family of five can pay yearly up to 2000 Ghana cedi (around 450 EUR) of toilet fees alone, which would be more than enough for a household toilet within a few years. Still, not all people see a toilet as a feasible or attractive investment, because the water bills already run high as it is and pit latrines are not recommended for small yards.

The quest for a better toilet to suit local needs and resources

Our UDDT technology pilot has set out to co-design a locally suitable toilet facility that would solve common issues associated with WC and pit latrine. It is clear that WC technology is not a sustainable solution considering economic restrictions, the lack of sewage treatment facilities and water supply shortages. Meanwhile, pit latrine technology suffers from high ground water table, rainy season runoff and especially the lack of user convenience and cultural acceptability.

The from-waste-to-wealth aspect of the UDDT has added a significant motivation for toilet ownership potentially unlocking major development backlog in the sanitation sector. The production of organic fertilisers has indeed created a lot of interest. We were happy to note that people are starting to be aware of the UDDT and the potential of organic fertilisers. As an example, the Director of the main private waste management company in Ghana, Zoomlion Ltd., spoke in depth of the benefits of compost during our radio talk show, while acknowledging the hazards caused by the untreated wastewater from septic tanks. Even the newspaper, on the very day we arrived, had an article on the economic potential of urine as a fertiliser.

Figure 2. Urine Diverting Dry Toilet at Housing Primary School (photo Maarit Virtanen)

In addition, the renowned toilet gurus of the developing world – experts from Kwame Nkrumah University of Technology and Science – invited our project’s engineer and artisan to build a demonstration toilet to Kumasi. The model has been reviewed by UNICEF and major donors who are considering it for schools to replace the pit latrine models. Also the Director of the regional government agency for water and sanitation encouraged us to go meet their National Director to promote the UDDT.

Go big or go home

Our pilot may be small, but it indeed has a lot of potential. Taking advantage of our well-rooted sister-city cooperation, we are in an excellent position to co-create the AGROSAN value-chains holistically in the spirit of frugal innovation. With Finnish circular economy expertise and local engineering and construction know-how we can turn waste into valuable resources that boost the local agricultural productivity and economy.

Partnering with local sanitation programmes, the whole Ho Municipality can be mobilized for total sanitation with the locally suitable toilet designs. What is more, there is a definite potential for achieving great impact with the established national connections and interest. As a regional capital, Ho can display its sanitation development for Volta Region and whole of Ghana.

The work with partners in Ho continues with the Co-creating Sustainable Cities project (2017-2018) funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. The cooperation also includes new elements on circular economy and cooperation between schools. The idea of turning waste into value, and moving directly towards holistic circular economy solutions on the waste sector has raised a lot of interest among old and new partners. The work continues with an intensive training in Lahti in September 2017, where solutions are co-created with the aim of involving also Finnish companies.

As we embark on this 2017-2018 project phase, Grandma’s message for the team is – This is not the time to hold back, it is the time to think big!


Anna Aalto, Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences

Maarit Virtanen, Lahti University of Applied Sciences

Published 20.6.2017


Opening municipal data in the city of Lahti

The city of Lahti decided to open up their data for public use. The biggest challenge was to identify the datasets that will encourage the local community to use the city data to develop new business ideas. This article presents suggestions of which datasets the city of Lahti should make publicly available. Also presented are the most efficient means of defining and modifying said datasets.

Authors: Lenka Zatkova and Sariseelia Sore

Open Data

Data is the basic element of human knowledge. The value of data is in its potential to generate information, understanding and wisdom. (Kitchin 2014, 12.)  The knowledge becomes open if anybody can access, use, modify or share it (Open Knowledge International 2017b). Data is considered to be open when it is available under an open licence, which gives permission to republish the data, sell products or services based on the data and to create new content using the data free of charge (Open Data Institute 2017).

The main idea of opening public data is to increase its value by its usage. Open public data enhances transparency, citizen participation, collaboration and innovations. (Chignard 2013.)

Municipal Open Data and Entrepreneurs

Opening up municipal data for commercial use promotes local entrepreneurship. The objective of cities is to open up as many municipal datasets as possible. The decision about which datasets should be opened depends on their potential value for local entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs use the data mostly for app development or providing online, analytical, consultancy or training services. (Halonen 2012, 86 -87.)

A demand-based approach is the best to identify the entrepreneurs’ needs for open data (Conradie & Choenni 2014, 14). First, the owner of the data informs what data can be published and after that, the utilisers of the data come up with ideas about its practical applications (Conradie & Choenni 2014, 14; Moneo 2016).

Identification of Needs for Municipal Open Data in Lahti Region

During the research process there were three different approaches used to identify the needs for municipal open data in Lahti Region (Zatkova 2017). First, the companies were asked in a survey about their needs for municipal open data. Considering the early phase of the project, their answers had to be interpreted within the context of their awareness of open data. Keeping in mind that the awareness of open data could turn out to be low, another two approaches were deemed necessary. Firstly, the analysis of the experiences of other Finnish cities who have already opened some datasets. Secondly, the evaluation of recent trends in the business ideas of local start-ups using municipal open data.

A sample of 40 companies providing products or services in the Lahti area revealed their preferences in a survey. They could choose the datasets from a list, as well as suggest their own datasets. The outcomes of the survey are presented below.

The awareness of open data varied greatly among the companies in the sample. Only 25 % claimed to understand the concept and besides knew how they could use the municipal data if opened. The requirements of this group were considered the most relevant as they base on existing needs.

Familiarity of the open data concept by rest of the companies turned out low. Those companies didn’t come up with any business ideas exploiting municipal open data either, but they showed preliminary interest in some datasets. However, the relevancy of such interest is considered limited for purposes of decision-making by the city.

Datasets Desired by Companies with Existing Business Ideas

The most desired datasets by the companies with existing business ideas are closely related to buildings, construction and housing. The exact number of companies per category is shown in figure 1.

Figure 1. Municipal datasets desired by the companies with existing business ideas (Zatkova 2017)

The companies also came up with their own ideas of datasets that would support their business ideas. They suggested that the city should publish the energy savings targets for construction projects, and the energy strategy of the city of Lahti.

The field of energy savings appeared repeatedly also in business ideas among the start-ups that have been established in Lahti area in last four years (Business Development Manager 2017).

Datasets Desired by Companies without Existing Business Ideas

The companies without business ideas related to municipal data assume that access to city data could enhance development of their businesses. Their business areas influence their preferences. The most desired datasets by these companies are shown in figure 2.

Figure 2. The most desired municipal datasets by the companies without a business idea (Zatkova 2017)

The datasets are mostly general and usable by any kind of company, for example, business listings, population data or public bodies’ decisions. Besides these categories, the companies require datasets related to buildings, construction and housing.

The companies suggested also publishing data regarding the repair and construction of public buildings, annual plans and the budgets of the technical board and traffic in the city centre (including pedestrians).

Experiences in other cities reveal municipal datasets that are frequently used by other parties. There is a big chance that the same datasets could work also for the city of Lahti. The most relevant datasets include public transportation, traffic, parking information, geospatial data, city services and events. (Development Manager 2017)

The Importance of Cooperation

Experiences in other cities in Finland confirm that the city has to initialize the discussion on open city data, show a real commitment and be responsive towards citizens. Demand for datasets has to be developed in communication with companies, researchers, students and developers. The best way to do it is to take an iterative and cooperative approach supported by, for example, meetups, hackathons and competitions. The city should also be engaged in existing communities in social media. (Development Manager 2017). The involvement of the regional development organisation Ladec is indispensable in all these activities.

Figure 3. Opening up municipal datasets in cooperation with local community (Zatkova 2017)

Figure 3 illustrates recommended stages of the process of opening municipal datasets. The process is iterative. After a dataset is published, it must be regularly updated and, if required, modified.  (Development Manager 2017)


The decision about the municipal datasets to be opened has to be based on real needs. The initial phase of the municipal data opening project in city of Lahti can be supported by the data collected from local companies in spring 2017.  Communication with other cities experienced in the open data issues, would also be very valuable. However, constant cooperation with local community seems to be the most essential part in specifying municipal open datasets. It is also a necessity, after the data has been opened, to regularly in close cooperation with the open data utilizers to discuss requirements for updates and modification of the open datasets.


Business Development Manager. 2017. Ladec Oy. Interview 22 February 2017.

Chignard, S. 2013. Paris Innovation Review. [Cited 11 May 2017]. Available at:

Conradie, P. & Choenni, S. 2014. On the Barriers for Local Government Releasing Open Data. Government Information Quarterly. [Electronic journal]. Vol. 31, S10-S17. [Cited 12 May 2017]. Available at:

Development Manager. 2017. Tredea Oy. Email correspondence. Recipient Zatkova, L. Sent on 9 March 2017.

Halonen, A. 2012. Being Open About Data: Analysis of the UK open data policies and applicability of open data. [Online document]. London, United Kingdom: Finnish Institute in London. [Cited 12 May 2017]. Available at:

Kitchin, R. 2014. The Data Revolution: Big Data, Open Data, Data Infrastructures & Their Consequences. London, United Kingdom: SAGE Publications.

Moneo, A. 2016. International Open Data Conference 2016. [Cited 12 May 2017]. Available at:

Open Data Institute. The Open Data Institute. [Cited 4 May 2017]. Available at:

Open Knowledge International. Open Definition. [Cited 4 May 2017]. Available at:

Zatkova, L. 2017. Municipal Open Data and Regional Development. Identification of Open Datasets of City of Lahti. [Online document]. Bachelor’s thesis. Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management. Lahti. [Cited 2 June 2017]. Available at: 


Lenka Zatkova has studied Business Information Technology at Lahti University of Applied Sciences and will graduate and receive a BBA degree in June 2017.

Sariseelia Sore works as a Senior Lecturer in Business Information Technology Degree Programme at Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management.

Published 8.6.2017

Toxicity effects of copper and chromium on mortality and growth of Artemia Salina

Sometimes it can be difficult to quantify the environmental damage caused by uncontrolled and non-regulated waste discharging. That is why since some years before have begun to appear the ecotoxicological tests with Artemia Salina. The aim of this kind of tests is determine the toxicity of the samples to analyse, relating it with the mortality of these organisms.

Authors: Nuria Mengibar Guerrero and Mervi Pulkkinen


Artemia Salina is a kind of crustacean, which lives in salt water. This species it has probably not changed in 100 million years so it is considered one of the oldest species in the world. Their simple organism (they only have head, chest and abdomen) and its primitive nervous system make them suitable for toxicological tests since the damage caused to the animal is small or practically non-existent. Also some studies have demonstrated that Artemia Salina is sensitive to a wide range of heavy metals such as copper, zinc, chromium, cadmium or mercury making them perfect for quantifying the environmental damage caused by these harmful substances that are present in wastes of many industries or by products.

This study has analyzed the toxicity effects of copper and chromium on mortality and growth of Artemia Salina. In the case of copper it is known that it can bind directly to cellular structures and therefore interfere in the physiological functions of the organism tested. On the other hand, chromium is one of the most toxic heavy metals today and it could be present in two forms: Trivalent or Hexavalent chromium.

To prove and confirm this toxicity, three bottom ash samples provided by an energy plant in Lahti have been analyzed. Before doing the ecotoxicological tests, these three samples have been subjected to a batch test.

Material and methods

Artemia Salina eggs remain inactive until they find the necessary environmental conditions for their growth. Once these eggs find the proper conditions it takes at least 24 hours before the first nauplii appears, but they do not reach adulthood until after approximately 20-30 days.

Artemia Salina has to be cultivated before performing the test and for that it has been used JBL Artemio pur eggs and JBL Artemio salt. Three containers have been prepared with one liter of this salt solution and 5 spoonfuls of pure Artemia Salina eggs. After three days the first nauplii begin to appear. For that the growth of the brine shrimps will be possible, the containers should be kept at approximately 25 °C and the salt solution must be mixed gently from time to time. Also, if it is needed, more salt solution could be prepared and added the second or third day of life of Artemia Salina with the objective of keep the organism well nourished. Once they are grown, a cell plate is filled with 10 Artemia Salina in each cell, salt solution and the leachant solution obtained in the batch test (Table 1). To check how the age of Artemia Salina affects the test, the samples have been analysed three times in the same conditions but with Artemia Salina of different ages. Another variable that has been tested is the concentration of the leachant solution.

TABLE 1. Planning of the ecotoxicological test. Amount of leachant and salt solution

To compare the concentration of harmful substances with mortality, the concentrations of chromium and copper were estimated by a photometer in both solution of first leaching step and solution of second leaching step.

Results and discussion

After doing six tests (three for the first leachant solution and three for the second leachant solution) at different concentrations of the pollutant solutions, all the result that have been obtained are shown below in the form of different graphs (Figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1 (showing the amount of live Artemia Salina as a function of time testing sample 1) has been chosen as representative of the tests performed for the three samples. On the first day (color blue), Artemia Salina lasted 7 hours before dying, while on the third day of life (color red), following the same conditions of concentration, they lasted 4 hours this indicates that a higher age of the organism, there is less resistance to toxics.

FIGURE 1. Representation of the amount of live Artemia Salina as a function of time when sample 1 is being tested

On the other hand, in Figure 2 the percent of mortality in the minute 120 of the test is compared with the concentrations of copper and chromium present in each cell. As can be seen the mortality in cells 4, 5 and 6 (sample 2) is higher than in the others, indicating that because of a higher toxicity of the sample, the invertebrate organism dies in a shorter time. If the three graphs are compared, it can be seen that the three trend lines follow practically the same form. This is because the mortality of the Artemias Salina is directly proportional to the concentrations of the harmful substances present in the sample.

FIGURE 2. Representation of the percent of mortality in the minute 120 of the test compared with the concentrations of copper and chromium present in each cell

The chromium and the copper are accumulated by diffusion in the Artemia Salina. These substances penetrate through the cell membrane (a very fine skin, which makes them especially sensitive to toxics) of Artemia Salina following the Fick’s laws of diffusion (diffusion is the movement of a substance from a region of high concentration to a region of low concentration) and causing damage and different alterations in these organisms, ranging from difficulties in mobility to death.

Finally the results obtained from the toxicological analysis of the leachant solution of the second step of the batch test do not differ significantly from those obtained in the first part. The only difference is that in this second part, the concentrations of chromium and copper present in the samples are smaller and therefore the life of the tested animals is longer than in the first ecotoxicological test. They can live between 24 and 12 hours depending on their age.


It has been proven that the ecotoxicological test with Artemia Salina is a good method to determine the toxicity of a sample. Furthermore the test confirms that sample number 2 is the most toxic. Also the test provides evidences that variables such as the sample concentration or the age of the organism tested are directly proportional to the mortality of Artemia Salina and therefore must be taken into account when this type of ecotoxicological analysis are carried out.


Mengibar Guerrero, N. 2017. Utilization of concrete and ash waste in geotechnical construction – Legislation, methods and analysis requirements in Finland and Spain. [Online document]. Bachelor’s thesis in Environmental Technology. Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Technology. Lahti. [Cited 2 June 2017]. Available at:


Nuria Mengibar Guerrero is an exchange student from Polytechnic University of Catalunya, Barcelona (UPC) in Lahti University of Applied Sciences (Lahti UAS).

Mervi Pulkkinen is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Technology of Lahti UAS.

Published 2.6.2017

Article picture of Artemia Salina by Xavier 2010:

How to avoid relationships dissolution between sellers and buyers?

The sphere of marketing has experienced dramatic changes. Nowadays marketing varies remarkably from marketing of 50 years ago. Starting from customer marketing in 1950s and followed by industrial marketing, non-profit and service marketing, relationship marketing finally took its place in 1990s. In the following article the main factors that affect seller-buyer relationships as well as factors that cause relationships dissolution between the two parties are discussed. Moreover, recommendations how and why to maintain long-term relationships are given.

Authors:  Anastasiia Krokhina and Minna Porasmaa

Definition of relationship marketing

Relationship marketing (RM) represents the new phase in marketing world. Coming from transactional marketing with attention to actual purchases, relationship marketing went one step further. In relationship marketing world, special attention is paid to end users. (Krokhina 2017.) In other words, the customer is the starting point of all operations. Therefore, utilizing RM strategies companies try to build reliable and long-term seller-buyer relationships. Instead of searching for new customers, companies try to listen to the opinions of their customers and to satisfy them. (Buttle 1996, 1-28.)


Dissolution represents the end of seller-buyer relationships. According to Dwyer, Schurr and Oh (1987), not all the relationships lead to mutual interdependence and trust. Furthermore, even well-established relationships might break up due to different reasons. These reasons may vary a lot from one situation to another. However, there are several important aspects to pay attention to in order to avoid relationships dissolution.

According to Demers (2016), there are 10 reasons why customers break up seller-buyer relationship. As presented in Figure 1, the most common reasons are closely linked with the price of the services/products, the value the customers gain, the attitude towards them and competition. Regarding prices, some companies may originally try to attract the customers with a temporary decline in prices, and once customers are gained they raise up the prices. This is an example of a so-called price trap. Many buyers fall into such traps and decide to break up relationships afterwards. Another reason addresses the problem of received value. All in all, both sides of interaction start the relationships keeping in mind the value that they might gain. Therefore, in case the customers do not receive the expected benefits, the dissolution is very likely to occur.

Figure 1. Reasons of dissolution (Demers 2016)

One more important reason is the sellers’ attitude towards the customers. In any kind of situation, even the most unexpected and unpleasant, sellers and buyers should stay calm and be respectful. Sometimes one minor situation might break up even long-term relationships. Finally, competition also plays an important role when it comes to dissolution problems. Customers have the freedom of choice and they might decide to try something new of other companies or even switch to another company on a permanent basis.

Summing up, there are a lot of cases that may cause a break up of relationships. Moreover, reasons of dissolution vary a lot from minor to very serious problems. This raises a question: What can be done to save the relationships from dissolution?

Ways of Avoiding Dissolution

It is crucially important to understand your customers. Having an image of what your customers are like and what they want, helps to treat them respectively. Moreover, different customers bring different value to companies. (Kong 2006.) Some of them often make small purchases, whereas others rarely buy something, but in case they do, it is something expensive. Thus, they all bring value to companies but the value varies in time spans, amount and frequency.

By understanding your customers it is easier to avoid break ups of relationships. However, there are a few more important issues to take into consideration.

The first thing to be paid attention to is customer satisfaction. The fact of keeping customers unsatisfied with prices/products/services is the most probable cause of relationships dissolution. (Egan 2011, 127-137.) Customer satisfaction depends on customers’ expectation. For example, if the quality of service they get is higher than what they expect or on the same level, then they are satisfied. On contrary, if the quality is worse rather than what is expected, the customers remain unsatisfied. Thus, a way to avoid dissolution of relationships is to care about and to be interested in your customers and their satisfaction when you execute your activities.

The second advice how to avoid the break up of relationships is getting closer and personal with your customers. Having emotional connections people tend to trust each other more. Furthermore, getting personal with customers bring the relationships to a new level. (Malone 2015.) It means that the purchase is no longer just an exchange of goods and money but it is also complemented by positive emotions. People are willing to come to such a place over and over again. Moreover, it is much harder to leave something you got used to and have personal linkage to – you would rather try to solve any potential problem.

The third recommendation is to organize loyalty programs. In order to be committed to a company, a customer should understand the benefits s/he will get. However, the same benefits are not enough to keep customers for a long time. Loyalty programs help a lot in maintaining reliable, long-lasting seller-buyer relationships. (Butscher 2002, 31-50.) In addition, loyalty programs make customers feel special. That is what needed in order to keep the customers and to maintain the competitive edge over the competing companies.

To sum up, relationship marketing deals with creating value for customers and receiving value in return for a long period of time. Even though RM is fully focused on customers, sometimes seller-buyer relationships might lead to a dissolution stage at some point of the relationships. Moreover, there are a number of reasons for this. However, it does not mean that the break up of relationships is unavoidable. Listening to customers and working with them in cooperation helps to avoid dissolution.


Butscher, S. 2002. Customer Loyalty. Programs and Clubs. 2nd edition. Aldershot: Gower Publishing Limited.

Buttle, F. 1996. Relationship marketing. Theory and practice. London: Paul Chapman Publishing Ltd.

Demers, J. 2016. The Most Common 10 Reasons Clients Leave. Entrepreneur. [Electronic magazine]. [Cited 10 May 2017].  Available at:

Dwyer, R., Schurr, P., Oh, S. 1987. Developing Buyer-Seller Relationships. New York: American Marketing Association.

Egan, J. 2011. Relationship Marketing. Exploring Relational Strategies in Marketing. 4th Edition. [Electronic book]. Harlow: Pearson Education Limitied. [Cited 13 May 2017]. Available at:

Krokhina, A. 2017. Relationship Marketing. Developing Seller-Buyer Relationships. [Online document]. Bachelor’s thesis. Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management. Lahti. [Cited 7 May 2017]. Available at:

Kong, C., M. 2006. Relationship Marketing in a Globalised World. Kuala Lampur: Utusan Publications & Distributors SDN BHD.

Malone, C. 2015. It is time to get personal with your customers again. Fidelum Partners. [Cited 14 May 2017].  Available at:


Anastasiia Krokhina has studied International Business at Lahti University of Applied Sciences and will graduate and receive a BBA degree in the end of May 2017.

DSc. (Econ. And Bus. Adm.) Minna Porasmaa works as a Senior Lecturer at Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management.

Published 29.5.2017

How to create supercoders

Recently Talouselämä reported that the programmer shortage has reached a point where the top coders can expect salaries around 15 000 euros a month. That might seem ludicrous since the average software engineer salary in Finland is 43 000 per year or less than quarter of the top programmers, but at the same time, there are reasons for the disparity, because the best people in the field are actually that much more productive. So, how does one become a supercoder?

Author: Aki Vainio

What is a supercoder?

The disparity between 180 000 (Muukkonen 2017) top salary and 43 000 (DAXX 2016) average a year is huge, but there are reasons for this. Despite difficulties in actually quantifying this, the common wisdom is that the best performing programmers are around ten times more productive than the average ones (for example McConnell 2011). Taking this difference into account, as well as savings in coordination, management, workspace, equipment, and so forth, it is understandable that certain programmers are better paid than others are.

As programming is not manual labor, you can achieve these differences through various means. The best programmers are not only people who can type fast. They have intuitive knowledge of how to structure their code so that it is maintainable, they can do more with less code and they write less bugs. Not only that, but they have an eye on how to maximize value of their work by doing the right things.

How to become an expert?

The myth of 10 000 hours of training is widely quoted, but also widely criticized (for example Baer 2014). The main problem with the rule is that it simplifies the concept too much. Instead of just spending the time, it is preferable to approach this through so-called deliberate practice (Ericsson 2000).

Deliberate practice is, simply put, practicing with a clear goal. You can deliberately learn sub-skills that make up an overall skill. To help with this, you can either come up with exercises yourself or rely on ones designed by others.

If possible, you also should not try to become an expert alone. While the learning pyramid is one of those concepts that are often criticized (Willingham 2013), the target of the criticism isn’t the idea itself, but rather the percentages involved. According to the pyramid, the retention rate is 5% for lectures, but 90% for what we teach others. This is extreme and the percentages definitely are not correct (Thalheimer 2006), but the order of the methods is at least roughly so.

Image 1: The Learning Pyramid. Note that even the creator does not stand behind this (Kuropatwa 2007).

Learning to become a supercoder

This is not a simple question. There a lot of question marks here, because both the field of software productivity and learning methods suffer from an influx of myths, misinformation and over interpretation of various results.

If there is one thing working for us, it is that creating a certain kind of feedback loop is easy. When creating code, you can always test it easily and repeatedly, in order to see whether what you did was correct. Anyone with access to a computer can do this. By being able to analyze the defects, you can achieve deeper understanding of how the different parts of the code function together.

On the other hand, testing for good structure of the code, maintainability or other less tangible characteristics is much more difficult. In certain cases, you can find help, such as Project Euler (2001), which publishes complex mathematical problems frequently, which users can try to solve. The feedback there comes in two forms: you need to be able to solve the problem and your program needs to find the solution in less than a minute. This latter requirement requires understanding of many different concepts in programming to be able to achieve it. Of course, the highly mathematical nature of the site often serves to discourage people from using it.

Agile software development methodologies have brought their own learning methods along with them. Developers work in teams and often program in pairs to enhance learning. When you see what your pair or team member does and you can discuss their rationales for doing so, the members of the teams teach each other as a natural part of the process. You can replicate this by finding other people with similar goals and work together in order to achieve them.

It’s helpful to find a project that can keep you interested. Many of the better programmers started by creating their own games or modifying existing ones, for example. Others have hobbies they can digitalize to a certain degree. By finding ways to make the software better, one step at a time, will be quite helpful, but it is important to break the problem down into small parts that are easier to handle.

In general, it’s important to remember that although you are learning by using certain technologies, those technologies will become obsolete. Therefore, you should emphasize learning the underlying thinking behind programming paradigms and the ability to adopt new technologies, than to learn a currently fashionable programming language or tool.


Baer, D. 2014. New Study Destroys Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule. Business Insider. [Electronic newspaper]. [Cited 22 May 2017]. Available at:

DAXX. 2016. IT Salaries: Which Is the Highest-Paying Country for a Software Developer? [Cited 22 May 2017]. Available at:

Ericsson, A. 2000. Expert Performance and Deliberate Practice. [Cited 22 May 2017]. Available at:

Kuropatwa, D. 2007. The Learning Pyramid. [Cited 22 May 2017]. Available at:

McConnell, S. 2011. Origins of 10X – How Valid is the Underlying Research?. [Cited 22 May 2017]. Available at:

Muukkonen, H. 2017. Koodaripula iski Suomeen – palkat jopa 15 000 euroa kuussa. Talouselämä. [Electronic newspaper]. [Cited 22 May 2017]. Available at:

Project Euler. 2001. [Cited 22 May 2017]. Available at:

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Aki Vainio teaches information technology at LAMK. He has put a lot of thought into whether he can call himself a supercoder and has solved 52 of the 604 problems on Project Euler.

Published 24.5.2017