IT expert: Government should listen to entrepreneurs during corona crisis

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Estonia's e-state has responded well to the pandemic but the government should listen to IT entrepreneurs' advice, said IT visionary, entrepreneur and lecturer Linnar Viik. However, he said doctors having to perform manual data entry is "embarrassing and unacceptable".

Speaking on ETV's current affairs show "Esimene stuudio" on Tuesday evening, Viik discussed how the e-state has worked during the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: "The e-state has certainly not failed. The e-state is working. The most important thing now is to understand that the whole world was broken and locked down about a year ago, and Estonia's public administration and the state continued to function." 

He continued: "I think there are three countries in the world where the legal system worked electronically last year. Estonia is one of the countries where you can visit a notary remotely. This alone has seen over 50,000 hypothetical contracts made digitally instead during our corona pandemic. This has saved people from driving over 100,000 kilometers."

Earlier this week it was reported people who had already received coronavirus vaccines during the mass testing at the weekend may get a call from their doctors inviting them for another vaccination because family doctors' software has not been updated and data has to be checked manually patient-by-patient.

Viik called this embarrassing and unacceptable. "Keeping in mind our technological capabilities and competence, it is unacceptable that such a thing has happened."

He said the functioning of the vaccination information system can be easily managed, updated quickly with the right resources and go-ahead from the authorities. "It is not part of the great confusion of the health care system," he said.

Viik said that all the solutions for administering the vaccination could have been ready last spring. "We all knew that there would ever be a vaccine and that it would have to be handled smoothly," he said.

Viik said that in the spring of last year the state refused to offer assistance to the Estonian start-up sector.

"Why is it so that Bolt offers the City of London a free vaccination service for people and the City of London accepts it? Where is this ability to link the same company whose product has been developed and which is managed from Estonia, which has a majority stake in Estonia? How is it that this company has not been contacted?" he asked.

Looking to the autumn, Viik said that the state should be open to non-traditional solutions. "I am absolutely convinced that the offer from technology companies is still on the table, but there must be an [government] order for that," said Viik. 

He called the HOIA coronavirus notification app a failure. "It has not made an influential contribution to curbing this epidemic and no one is in charge of it" Viik said.

Speaking about the functioning of e-government more broadly, Viik said a 20 percent growth in funding would ensure the important components of the system are healthy and secure. He said the e-state costs citizen's approximately €10 a month.

The user-friendliness of many of the countries' e-solutions is also a concern, he said. Services should be created with the user in mind, not the institution.

Viik is a co-founder and programme manager of the e-Governance Academy, a lecturer at the Estonian Academy of Arts and the University of Tartu and a co-founder and partner of Mobi Solutions

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Editor: Helen Wright

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