One Globe Forum 2019: Digital governance with Estonian Ambassador Riho Cruuv



good evening it's my great pleasure to introduce to you His Excellency ambassador Ryo crew from Estonia this is a country that you don't hear about much but when you do hear about it it's for all the right reasons and what we'll do is really I'll set a little bit of the context but I would like the Ambassador to share the journey that Estonia has had you know I was just reading up on how the world has been talking about Estonia and when you look when you just google Estonia you'll find Silicon Valley of ego Vernon's you'll have headlines that talk about how far ahead Estonia is in providing its citizens a digital way of life in terms of providing public services where did this start from good evening everyone first of all I'm very pleased to be here and and I'd like to thank the organizers of this beautiful conference for kindly inviting me and and sharing the the story of Estonia and what we have done and what what's waiting ahead and basically the story started in early 90s when we regained our independence from Soviet Union which collapsed in 91 as we know and basically we we got the very poor small country we our size is about the same as Denmark or Netherlands but the population is only 1.3 million and then we had a huge task of two of running this country and if you are if you don't have oil in your country if you don't have many other natural resources you have to use mostly your brains or minds and this is what we tried to do we were actually quite lucky because early 90s was the time when personal computers became a whale general public on quite reasonable prices and also internet came out and we were also lucky to have a to have a small nice neighbors like Finland and we were actually the only country in Soviet Union that could see at least in northern coast of Estonia we could see Finnish TV so we were desperate to really catch up our northern neighbor Finland because we knew how normal countries operate and how what is life on the other side of the Iron Curtain so and Finns had just come out with Nokia mobile phone so we actually spent first 10-15 years in Estonia after regaining independence figuring out what is Estonian Nokia and of course this was like you could literally hear our brains working there was a lot of buzz around us and we started heavily experimenting with internet and digital technologies because we didn't have basically we had the geography we had people living everywhere in our in our country but 1.3 million people you don't have really people to provide services to the full population and then again we were very much interested in people not moving to the capital but staying where they staying where they live and we wanted to do something which gives them an opportunity to to use the services both public and private from their homes in peripheral areas of Estonia if I may so but we were also very tired of Soviet bureaucracy so we wanted to build up our country in a very small government very lean very efficient so putting those many things together we had very progressive governments after we regained independence which means that our leaders political leaders were very much into adopting two new digital technology seeing how we can quickly connect all our schools to the broadband internet seeing how we can use digital technologies in in governing the country and very very soon we came out with an idea of giving digital identity to every person living in Estonia so we took less than 10 years we had first digital identity cards issued in 2002 which is 17 years ago and this was the initially it was just a nice piece of plastic which you could use only as a travel document and government made a very smart decision first of all having this digital ID card was made on obligate obligation obligatory so everybody had to have it then it was it was decided at the government level that all the services that government agencies offer they have to be also available in digital form so there wasn't really an option of do we want to go digital or not so they were all obliged to go and of course government was very like a driver of this change and since that was the beginning and and initially the all those public services started coming and then banks followed and then other businesses followed so very very quickly we also developed another platform which we call mobile ID which is basically the same functionality what you can do with your digital chip card you can also do with your mobile SIM card so basically that gave us an opportunity to use all those services authenticate ourselves digitally in a secure way using our mobile phones and right I mean in 2005 we were that far in Estonia that we decided that we will experiment with Internet voting so this is 14 years ago right so now we have had like Internet voting availability in municipal level in national parliament level and even European Parliament elections and up to 30% of our population is using an opportunity to vote electronically now we can do it even with our mobile phones and actually one hunt people from 116 countries used it last time so it doesn't mean that internet voting is going to replace the traditional like poll station kind of elections but it will only give another opportunity and we see like 106 we a small country we would never be able to organize elections in 116 countries right but then again you your people who travel or living outside of of Estonia they can still participate in political process of the country and by having this technology we have also managed to make elections popular for younger generation so they don't care about going to the poll stations but if they can do it using internet or even mobile phone that will be a very attractive form we're in an election year in India this year as you know and we have a hundred thirty million new warriors that are yeah there are first-time voters have you talked to the Indian government about e-governance and and if we could do voting from estonia's experience because we've tried EVMs there's a lot of back-and-forth an argument about how safe or unsafe EVMs can be what is it from a cyber security perspective that you do that we could learn something from first of all it's important to mention that we never really aspired to to really have this internet voting initially it has been like a side product of all those digital services that are available to our people and since you had this digital platform available you could securely authenticate yourself you could give digital signatures so making this step forward was the only way to really adding another layer of services to the platform that we already had but of course we have a very intensive dialogue with both government of india in union level and also we have developed a very active relationship with some of the states in india to see how how we can how these solutions that are developed in Estonia and are working under secure how they can be used for the benefit of in people of India and of course it is important to mention that none of these services are really like off-the-shelf things you still need to customize you need to develop and redevelop them to fit to Indian market so we definitely need help of Indian companies to work together with us to make these services available and I'm very pleased to say that that that geo reliance is already found very interesting to work with the stone young engineers and they are like working together to develop this digital service platform for for geo so that might be a big game changer for India as well in the future and the CEO of Reliance is a resident of Estonia that's right could you tell us about the e-residency because they might be folks here who might apply basically I already told that we had this digital ID and I D in our pocket for a long time ago and then we really thought that since we have all this platform already up and running so why do we keep it only to Estonians or people that live in Estonia and some of the people came out with an idea of launching the program of a residency which is basically an opportunity for foreigners to become like residents of Estonia they can get a residency card SIM chip card which is giving them digital identity with Estonian government they can securely authenticate themselves they can sign documents digitally and we already have more than 50,000 residents in the world and they have is they have established more than 6000 companies in Estonia and I'm extremely proud for for India having more than 2000 e residents and we have to 276 companies in Estonia that have been established by Indian young entrepreneurs using residency so most likely this will become a major major platform for our economic cooperation in the future and what what we aspire actually is to really give people an opportunity to to use enjoy this what we call digital nomad lifestyle which is that you you can actually establish company in Estonia it takes you 18 minutes over Internet so once you have company in Estonia you have company in European Union which is five five hundred million market so forget about the stone in 1.3 so a lot of lot of entrepreneurs and found it very useful so that they can use Estonia as the foothold for developing their business interest in Europe and also also even going further to us because you lot of particularly people doing e-commerce some some something where you need to accept payments in digital form like PayPal some others so you you can't have it in India right but you can do it in Estonia if you have a company there you can use all the sources or means of payment so that has been very active for some of the entrepreneurs here one of the things I think a lot of the world doesn't know is you guys are doing blockchain before blockchain was there could you tell us a little bit about that and how Estonia came to that and and how is it different from the perception of blockchain being Bitcoin which is used on the platform so well that's quite funny story actually Estonia since we started actively developing our digital society in the early mid 90s maybe we we were quite it advanced in mid mid 2000s and that again made us quite vulnerable for cyberattacks and we were actually first country in the world that was like officially declared as the worst first victim for like focused cyber war from across the border and initially of course few servers went down and it was quite complicated situation but we managed to take this lemon which was given to us and we turned it to eliminate so after this cyber attack the best brains in Estonia came together and they they started working on technologies which came known as blockchain so it is some sometimes it's said that we started using blockchain technology even before it was officially invented and of course blockchain is known mostly for the like platform for Bitcoin but it has the applications of blockchain technology are very very broad and we can easily say that we use blockchain extensively in no digital platform in Estonia and we its blockchain is covering almost every aspect of digital services that are offered by the government it health be it Land Registry whatever I mean basically it's like a dust of blockchain is everywhere so we we have good companies doing this these work on these technologies and we believe that this is definitely the technology which is going to be a game-changer for the for the world the other element which I was very intrigued by as I was reading Estonia's journey and adopting e-governance was you used to have a pretty high backlog of legal cases in the courts and once you adopted the platform to digitally enable a lot of this stuff to be processed it has come down dramatically India suffers from that problem chronically and tell us about that experience is there something that we could again learn from that experience because you know I think democracies are only functional if you can bring just as quick unlike cases here get stuck for 20 30 years if you go to court how is that experience been from your perspective thank you for the question I think the court sees is of course only one area where you see the real benefit of digitization or using digital technologies in providing public services I think it comes down to first to efficiency of the process I mean you you you can do things faster I mean Estonian government is known to be it's paperless and and every it has been counted that every year we save 2 percent of our GDP just because of we have this opportunity to give digital signatures so little by little it it adds up and I think one major benefit is also when we talk about digital governance is that it's been extremely important in terms of increasing the transparency of the processes and the economy in general because it's you cannot bribe the computer right so you just click and it goes and you expect it to be like the information come back quickly and there are certain deadlines established all public servants to really do the job so that has been very important in our case to also to bring down the corruption level so I'm far from saying that we are 100% corruption free just you still see it in some municipal levels when you need to deal with like public servants issuing your construction permit or something so where you need this personal interaction with people but all in all it's been absolutely revolutionary way of doing things and and providing the services I think it's the most important actually yes this 2% of GDP is nice if you save it the money you can use it in somewhere else like health health care or education but I think it's been extremely important to really raise the quality of life for people because you don't need to go to like public office anymore to stand in long lines to get something done and there is also principle in Estonian system that the government can only ask your data once so if it's if some government agency has kept your date of birth your address or something take the other government agency cannot do it again I mean it has to be available through the system distributed between the like shared between the servers in a safe and secure way that has been also extremely important game changer because when you interact with the government you don't you just say your name and date of birth and that's it I mean the rest is like running smoothly and you we are a little bit spoiled now I mean you you expect like very fast delivery of service fast response and if you if you don't get things done fast you are like what's going on tough adjusting to India well every country is beautiful on its in his own way I have I was very excited when I came to India in 2016 to see how this initiative of digital India how it has like taken off and just few months after my arrival Adha was launched and I I I'm very strong believer that if these security issues can be solved for platform at heart this will be a major major like revolution for this country in terms of providing service to people bringing the cost down and and also I mean it's maybe electronic voting is is too much to ask but there are so many application in which are are could be used and I truly hope that it can be also used in between consumers and businesses and compete win businesses because you reap the benefits of digital digital identity and signatures when it's going through all your society at least this is what we believe in Estonia and I think speaking about India I think it was fascinating to see how this mobile technology has changed the landscape of this country in terms of taking services to the villages to the people that never had access to certain things and how it has eliminated the need for all sorts of middlemen taking Commission of doing this and that and also reducing corruption so I think I think India is on the right path future is bright keep going and don't hesitate to ask for help and assistance we are ready to help you and give you our expertise great thank you so much your excellency this has been absolutely fascinating to learn what Estonia has done in the government space thank you for joining us at one globe and could we get a round of applause for the ambassador please thank you very much thank you for listening and thanks to organizers for giving you this opportunity to share

Maurice Vega

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