Estonia plans to leverage its e-government experience globally

Kersti Kalijulaid, the President of Estonia, at an exclusive meeting with a group of five journalists from developing countries (Photo-Khine Kyaw, Myanmar Eleven
AS ESTONIA strives for more effective e-government solutions to increase citizen satisfaction, the nation plans to forge international links, said the nation’s President KerstiKaljulaid. 
 
Speaking to a group of five journalists from developing countries invited to the Presidential Palace, the president said that Estonia wants to cooperate with both developed and developing economies around the world with respect to their digitalisation efforts.
 
“Every State has a different culture but all the governments are trying to improve their e-government systems,” she said. “Good governments provide a safe hub for their citizens, regardless of where they live.” 
 
President Kaljulaid said e-government must be built to meet the needs of citizens. She stressed the need for vision, political will, clear roadmaps and strong coordination to ensure a citizen-centric e-government.
 
“People and businesses are already on the Internet. Governments have no option – they have to follow,” she said.
 
“No need to rebuild trust, if you never lose it. And not losing it means being inclusive of all citizens, always.”
 
The president provided some recommendations for developing nations. “First of all, the most important point to start is to do it universally – all services on the same platform without limiting it to public services only. Allow private companies on the same platform. This will create a universal ecosystem for all people in your country.
 
“Second, make sure that everybody has genuine access to these systems. Finally, run training programmes for people. Make it very clear to the people. You cannot do it without a massive training exercise,” she said.
 
She stressed the importance of delivering digital identities to citizens by using the elements of security. She urged the protection of people’s rights, along with providing improved digital services and increase engagement with the private sector.
 
“They [the private sector] are the ones who will lead the economic game. Get them involved. Make them play a part in the costs of establishing the system. Let them feel free to create different services on the same platform,” she said, adding that all of her nation’s e-government services were developed by private companies.
 
Despite being a nation with only 1.3 million people, Estonia is known for its advanced technology and digital solutions. According to the e-Estonia showroom, 99 services in the country are online, and Internet is a social right of the people. Only marriage, divorce and selling houses are not digital.
 
The government’s efforts were reflected by the country’s top rankings in various global indexes. Estonia tops the Internet freedom index by Freedom House, Global IT report on mobile network coverage, the tax competitiveness index by OECD, and the digital development index by Barclays. It also stands first in the entrepreneurship index by World Economic Forum and EU digital economy and social index by European Commission. 
 
It ranked second in the global transformation index by Bertelsmann Stiftung, an independent German foundation, and ranked 12th in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report.
 
Yet, the president seems not to be fully satisfied with the current achievements. Driven by her strong political will and thirst for a brighter future, she is committed to improving digital services.
 
“Technology could be changing. We do not want to be hampered by that,” she said. “In Estonia, the digital environment is very clearly regulated. Because of the security model, it is very clear about what needs to be done. Now we need to take the regulations to the next level,” she said.
Kaljulaid stressed the need for more block chains to meet people’s demands. The Estonian government is now discussing very clear and unique regulations of the digital environment. “We have decided that we will do a paperless government meeting. There will not be any paper in the government meeting room. There will only be computers,” she said.
 
“Whoever wins the next general elections, there is a consensus that the e-government model needs to be developed.”
 
She believes the nation will reach a much higher level before the European job market opens. She urges other nations to urgently undertake two things: improving the living standard of the people and providing freedom by easing restrictions – including media freedom, freedom of speech and of expression.
 
“We are following the new developments in technology, which makes it very easy for both public and private sectors to express their new ideas. It is very easy to start a business here. As a member of the European Union, we are also part of a much bigger market,” she said, highlighting that investors from Asian countries including Japan and Korea are excelling in their business in Estonia.
 
The president is no longer worried about a brain drain, as the average monthly salary for a citizen of Estonia has reached nearly 1,300 euros (Bt48,500).
 
By KHINE KYAW
Myanmar Eleven
Tallinn, Estonia