How Estonia became e-Estonia

Think of the leading nations in digital technology; consider the most infamous regions for tech innovation. You’re most likely picturing Silicon Valley and global tech brands – the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google – leading the way. You’re unlikely to think of Estonia. But this post-Soviet state is showing its tech-savvy side with the implementation of practical artificial intelligence (AI) solutions across its famous capital city, Tallinn. Tallinn is known for its old town and picturesque architecture – even in the most modern quarters of the city, there is little evidence that it may be ahead of the curve on a global scale in digital technology. In fact, in just under 30 years Estonia is firmly establishing itself as one of the most digitised nations in the world. As reported by The ABC, Estonia has digitally streamlined an unprecedented number of public services, with 50 new government Artificial Intelligence (AI) projects set to come online by next year. In the private sector, robot bartenders and delivery robots are the result of a thriving IT start-up culture that is changing the shape of everyday life. This has produced a string of IT companies now regarded as global giants, including Bolt, Playtech, TransferWise and Skype. Estonia declared internet access to be a human right almost two decades ago. In 2014, it launched the world’s first e-residency system, allowing digital residents to open and manage an Estonian business from anywhere in the world entirely online. So how has Estonia become e-Estonia? One theory is that the fall of the Soviet Union presented Estonia with the opportunity to start from zero. This made it one of the youngest, most savvy countries in the world, unshackled from the burden of legacy systems. This, alongside a small population, a positive attitude to technology and high level of trust in the state from its citizens enabled a culture of problem solving and efficiency. It also capitalised on the opportunity to build trust, with a system of data transparency. It avoided the tech backlash currently being experienced in other, more advanced nations where there is a culture of distrust towards governments and how they handle data. Estonia innovated around cybersecurity long before the emergence of block chain with its own system, X-Road, which is now used by NATO, the US Department of Defence, and throughout the EU to ensure cybersecurity. X-Road, built around a similar principle to block chain, allows Estonian citizens to see exactly who has accessed that data and challenge any suspicious behaviour. In terms of education, technology is a core part of the curriculum in Estonia, taught from a young age. This has nurtured innovation and is a principal reason why Estonia had 5G, driverless vehicles, augmented reality and publicly available AI solutions before many of the nations considered to be superior. At SCC, we believe a lot can be learned from Estonia in the way it has not only developed by integrated smart technology into everyday life. From leisurely convenience to high-level data security, AI represents a significant opportunity for businesses of any size, in the public and private sectors, to innovate and disrupt the technology landscape beyond recognition. To find out more about how SCC can help your business innovate its IT, please click here.
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