Carl Bildt: After Tiger Leap, E-Estonia Should Be Exported Abroad

Former Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt (Postimees/Scanpix)
11/6/2014 9:20 AM
Category: Sci-Tech

As the influential World Bank's IT group gathered on the invitation of Estonian President for a meeting in Tallinn on Tuesday, former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt encouraged Estonia to build upon its success as an e-state.

Jim Yong Kim, the President of the World Bank, asked Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves to become a co-leader of the advisory panel of the World Bank Development Report this spring. The 2016 World Development Report, "Internet and Development," is being prepared under the joint leadership of Ilves and the Chief Economist of the World Bank, Kaushik Basu, and it will focus on best practices within both the private and public sectors.

The report serves to analyze trends and give examples from different countries, including the e-services offered in Estonia, thereby introducing the country's technical solutions to a larger audience, particularly a secure online-identity and the X-Road, which allows various e-services databases, both in the public and private sector, to link up and operate in harmony. These are the cornerstones of Estonia's democratic transparency.

On Tuesday, President Ilves invited the panel members to discuss the report in Tallinn.

Basu, former Prime and Foreign Minister of Sweden, Carl Bildt, spokesperson for the IT sector of India Narayana Murthyi, and Google representative Nicklas Lundblad were among others who participated at the brainstorming in the Estonian capital.

Carl Bildt said Estonia should build upon its IT success that started with Tiger Leap in the 1990s. Tiger Leap was a project undertaken by Estonia to heavily invest in development and expansion of computer and network infrastructure, with a particular emphasis on education. The project was proposed by then foreign minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves, and announced by the President Lennart Meri in 1996.

"To continue the success story which was started with Tiger Leap, Estonia should look across its borders, because the basis of all success stories is a collaboration," Bildt said.

"Take, for example, Skype – it had Estonian, Swedish and Danish input. Cross-border collaboration between the Nordic countries is highly possible and it should be seen as an advantage from the Estonian, Swedish, Danish, and Finnish point of view,” Bildt said.

President Ilves added that it is very important that the World Bank has chosen Internet as the keynote topic for the World Development Report, as this will change general concept about the functioning of economy and society.

"An openness to technology and innovation may become the key to the development of a country, as Estonia's experiences have shown," he said. For Ilves, the opportunity to co-lead the Advisory Panel of the World Bank's World Development Report primarily gives him a chance to introduce the solutions and rationale adopted by Estonia.

Basu confirmed that Estonia's success story in implementing digital solutions is a lesson for rest of the world, and other countries could offer their public services more economically, by following Estonia's example.

“Governments can avoid unnecessary costs and prevent corruption by using digitized public services. Only by using the most innovative solutions in information technology, we can satisfy the needs of the poorest people in the world,” he said.

The report includes recommendations about information technology solutions that developing countries could implement and that the development agencies should fund.

According to Ilves, Estonia is so advanced in its implementation of e-services that the greatest challenge is not to catch up with others anymore, but to wait for other countries to reach the same level.

“The next stage is to export our IT solutions that could be interchangeable abroad. Last year, Finland and Estonia cooperated in creating a data exchange layer of e-services, using Estonia's X-Road model. This project is very important for us, as it's the first time that we export our solutions to other countries on a state level,“ Ilves said.

The World Bank Group is an international organisation pursuing goals that primarily aim to reduce poverty and enhance the living standard of people; loans, strategic counselling, technical assistance and the sharing of experiences are offered to low and average income countries for that purpose.


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