Estonia. I’ve been reading about the country for years, about it being a leading light in the world for its use of technology by Government, its burgeoning tech sector, being the birthplace of Skype, etc.
I’ve also been boring people in Jersey since I arrived about the place (although actually a team from Jersey went out a few years ago to see what they were doing) and even brought over the Estonian Government’s Chief Adviser on ICT to talk to our Government, tech and general business community. However, I’d never actually been to Estonia myself.
That changed last week when I joined Assistant Chief Minister Senator Philip Ozouf – who by the way doesn’t get enough credit here for the energy he puts into representing Jersey’s financial and digital sectors – for a visit to Tallinn to meet a range of companies and Governmental organisations, as well as attend a conference on Digital ID, which is a key element of our own eGov programme.
Despite having high expectations these were more than surpassed, and I am more convinced than ever that we can form a mutually beneficial relationship with Estonia’s digital sector to enhance our own. Highlights for me included:
- Learning more about the way that Estonia’s domestic Digital ID service has been expanded into an ‘e-residency’ programme, where people who aren’t actual residents can still obtain a Digital ID which allows them to do business there. This could be a great example for Jersey, where more people deal with Jersey financial institutions from off-island than on.
- Meeting Estonia’s largest IT company, who have taken their domestic experience on eGov projects and exported it around the world. Again, a template for our own companies to follow and a company they could work with to build the SoJ eGov systems.
- Discussing with the eGovernance Academy – which ‘creates and transfers knowledge and best practices on e-governance, e-democracy, open information societies and national cyber security’ – how they might be able to help Jersey to learn from their experiences.
- An enlightening meeting with Startup Estonia, ‘a governmental initiative aimed to supercharge the local startup ecosystem in order to see many more startup success stories to come from Estonia’ which can provide a model to Jersey for how we should be make funding available to startups and how we should be promoting ourselves as a great place to move to when setting up a technology company.
It was also good to meet up again with Siim Sikkut, Digital Policy Adviser to the Estonian Government, who had impressed everyone on his visit to Jersey in March.
I’ve always thought one of the main advantages Jersey has, which is even greater in a post-Brexit world, is that we can pick and choose the best people and countries to work with from around the world and don’t have to slavishly follow the UK on everything. As our Assistant Chief Minister said last week ‘we have much to learn from the Estonian experience’ and I certainly see the beginning of a beautiful friendship.