If you’re caught short in rural Finland, you’ll need a mobile phone. According to cellular news, the Road Authority there has installed locks on public toilets. A sign on the door explains that users need to text “open” (in Finnish, obviously; I hope the sign explains that) to a specific number, and the door opens, automagically. All this is in response to arson and theft (those Finns know how to have a good time), and the Authority is keeping a record of the numbers that seek access, so that if a toilet is damaged they can track down the perp.

This reminded me of one of the more remarkable things you can do with a mobile in Rome.

One of the great gotchas about driving downtown is that by the time you finally find a parking space, you are so elated that you often forget that you have to buy a ticket and stick it inside the car. At least, I do. About 18 months ago, the city launched a new service called Pagososta. You register your details, and can then send an SMS when you park your car. I guess you send another one when you leave the parking space. And the parking wardens (among the most sporadic workers in the entire country) can ask the central database whether you have paid. I hadn’t previously registered, but I thought it might be fun to do so now. All very easy. But I await instructions on exactly how to use the system ...

The weird part is, I have to register either my credit card or bank account to pay. That strikes me as strange and unnecessary. Why can’t the city simply team up with the mobile phone companies and take payment direct from my phone?

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