Prime minister to Tallinn Digital Summit: Tech must reinforce democracies

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas addressing the Tallinn Digital Summit, Tuesday, September 5, 2023.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas addressing the Tallinn Digital Summit, Tuesday, September 5, 2023. Source: Government Office.

While democracy as an institution faces great challenges as authoritarian regimes make use of the tools of the digital age against free societies, these societies can together turn the tables on this trend, and in turn use tech to bolster democracy, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says.

The prime minister made her remarks in her opening speech at Tuesday's Tallinn Digital Summit.

The summit is held annually and this year principally focused on links between democracy and technology.

The prime minister said: "Democracies need to focus more on how we can harness technology for the benefit of open and resilient societies. To this end, openness, responding to people's needs, resilience and cooperation are crucial."

By way of concrete examples, Kallas listed the investigation of war crimes, aid to war refugees from Ukraine, and the promotion of initiatives such as the Estonian-created World Cleanup Day.

"Economic and societal openness reinforce each other. Democracies don't have to undertake the impossible balancing act authoritarian regimes face: allowing enough economic openness to foster growth without losing political control," Kallas went on via a government office press release.

At the same time, this did not mean that there were no obstacles to tech development in the free world either, the prime minister noted.

"Here in Europe, I worry about a different balancing act – one where we will over-regulate new technologies and business models with the aim of protecting our citizens, and instead slow down many of the benefits that those technologies can offer," she went on.

All this means that governments cannot simply be passive observers of technological progress; creating a personalized state can simplify and improve, for instance the areas of medicine and education, as has been evidenced in Estonia, Kallas went on.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also here to stay, in this light, she added. "A country cannot develop technologically without embracing AI."

Third, cyber security remains key, the prime minister added, particularly given the current, changing security picture.

"Estonia nearly doubled its annual cyber security budget last year, alongside to the commitment to spend at least 3 percent of GDP on defense overall," the prime minister went on, encouraging representatives of other countries in the international audience to do the same.

A final, crucial ingredient is cooperation on supporting a full victory for Ukraine in the current war, with a view to bringing it into the NATO and EU fold, the prime minister went on.

Public-private sector collaboration will give a strong impetus to this, she added.

The prime minister's full speech is available here.

The full day's events at Tallinn Digital Summit 2023, which took place at the Tallinn Creative Hub (Kultuurikatel) are available to view here.

Tallinn Digital Summit is one of two high-level events going on this week and which the prime minister is taking part in. The other, the two-day Open Government Partnership (OGP) summit starts today, Wednesday, also in Tallinn.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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