On Wednesday, the e-Estonia Council introduced the vision and development directions of the digital state and cybersecurity development plan for 2030 to the government. There will be a heavy focus on AI implementation and 50 AI services will be in use by the end of the year.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said: "The development plan depicts Estonia as a digital hub of the world whose prerequisites and services travel to all corners of the country and around the world with its citizens. Foreigners will come here to do business digitally and learn from our experiences. It is important for this document to have both ambition and specific courses of action, as well as to involve the whole society."
The plan focuses on the transition to proactive services which bring state support to each person exactly when they need it. In the future, citizens will only have to provide required data once, and each user, regardless of whether they are a person or a company, can review which data the state has collected on them and who is using it for what purposes.
Among other things, the secondary use of data will involve a consent service. In addition, the plan provides for more efficient administration of public services, the development of central components of the digital state infrastructure, and the systemic testing of new solutions, involving the academic sphere and the private sector, including start-ups.
Using artificial intelligence in the Estonian public sector has already begun. By the end of the year, 50 kratts (artificial intelligence services) will be in use in the state, but there is potential to develop much further in the future.
The name Kratt has been taken from Estonian mythology. A Kratt is a magical creature, a servant built from hay or old household items. The Estonian government uses this character as a metaphor for AI and its complexities.
In order to facilitate communication between citizens or companies and the state, the #bürokratt concept of creating a virtual assistant will be implemented. This assistant, which speaks and understands English, can provide assistance in using state services, as it is linked to the most important e-services of all areas of administration.
However, people must be able to use all public services without having specific knowledge on them by using the means and method of communication most suitable for them, and services must also be available across borders – in the Nordic countries and the EU.
The current status of the development of legislative norms regulating the implementation of kratts was also introduced at the meeting of the e-Estonia Council. Problems may occur in the implementation of AI. These problems are related to either stereotypes or incorrect considerations from previous practice used to train the kratt, coding errors, or the lack of transparency in decision algorithms.
At the EU and Council of Europe level, several recommendations have been issued for ensuring the conformity of artificial intelligence with basic rights and its transparency. Currently, provisions related to AI are dispersed between different legislative acts. The plan to develop a draft "Kratt Act" has been sent for approval and the council will return to the topic in November. A legislative act of the EU on the subject is planned to be issued next year.
The e-Estonia Council also discussed ways to facilitate communicating with the Emergency Response Centre for deaf and hearing-impaired people.
Currently, people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired can communicate with the Emergency Response Centre via text message.
More modern solutions are planned to be implemented to streamline communication.
Ratas said: "It is very important for people with a hearing impairment to communicate their problems in the fastest, safest, and most convenient way. Under these circumstances, every wrong press of a button can literally cost a life."
At the meeting, it was agreed that the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Social Affairs would analyse the situation and discuss with the Emergency Response Centre and the Estonian Association of the Deaf whether the best alternative for text messaging would be a smartphone application, a video call, or another solution
Read more about Kratt and Estonia's AI development here.
Editor: Helen Wright