Estonia Pavilion panel reveals how nation became one of world’s most digitally advanced societies

Estonia, one of the earliest adopters of e-governance and the first country to vote online, provided a glimpse of its globe-leading journey into digitalisation at a panel event at the nation’s Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion.

Speakers at ‘The Impact of the Government’s Digitalisation Efforts on Public Private-Partnership Dynamics’ on Thursday (27 January) highlighted how the Northern European country, which has a population of only 1.3 million people, harnessed the private sector expertise to rise to be number one globally in seamlessly connected digital services. Per capita, Estonia also has the highest number of ‘unicorns’ – start-up companies valued in excess of USD 1 billion.

Artur Assor, Partner and Head of Products, MEA, at digital transformation company Nortal, said: “Thirty years ago, Estonia was at a point where we had to build from ground zero. We had no natural resources and we learnt to do more with less. So we turned to technology to make our processes more efficient. But if you have conditions different from other countries, you can’t follow them. So, we built the digital state ourselves.

“Digital Estonia combines the public and private sectors to provide a unified digital experience. And our citizens are expecting more and more from digitalisation, be it reminding that their driver’s licence is about to expire or registering the birth of a baby in the government system.”

Offering everything from online tax filing and internet elections to quick business registration via mobile devices, Estonia has positioned itself as a digital-first society. Ninety-eight per cent of companies are established online and 96 per cent of tax declarations are filed online, according to official data.

Assor said Estonia’s transformative journey began with the launch of e-Residency, a government-issued digital identity and status that provides access to the country’s transparent digital business environment. It allows entrepreneurs to manage business from anywhere, entirely online. A number of world-renowned technology companies, including Skype, were born in Estonia.

The Estonia Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai tells the story of its e-transformation. With its striking all-blue façade and a luminous design that draws inspiration from the circuitry that powers it, the pavilion shares the Baltic nation’s digital innovations. Visitors can tour a futuristic model e-classroom and walk beneath illuminated data “clouds” based on the country’s X-Road online infrastructure.