In January, e-Estonia Briefing Centre celebrates its 14th birthday. Oh, what a ride it has been. The history of the e-Estonia Briefing Centre (or by other names e-Estonia Showroom and Demo centre) is a topic for a future article, but before that, let’s look at our stormy last year.
We entered the year 2022 with the hope that Covid will recede and the world will open up again for travelling. However, for Estonia and many countries in our region, it led to a completely new and highly uncertain crisis – the devastating war that Russia started against Ukraine on February 24th. “If we think about the learning opportunities that the crises in recent years have offered for e-Estonia Briefing Centre, I dare to point out the dilemma of determination and quality vs quantity,” told Ave Lauringson, CEO of the Briefing Centre. “If, before 2020, approximately 1000 international delegations visited us without us making huge marketing or sales campaigns, then during the years of crises, it was necessary to contribute significantly more to the international visibility of e-Estonia, to reorganise the centre’s service offering into an online format and proactively approach the customers. Determined work led to an increase in visits in 2022, which is confirmed by both the visit statistics and the number of business programs,” she added.
The crises have also contributed to the more meaningful expectations of the visits. Public sector delegations, which make up an average of 47% of all delegations, have had to speed up the digitalisation of services offered to citizens due to Covid. However, the war in Ukraine has brought up the issue of the sustainability and resilience of a country – the creation of data embassies, the provision of services during wartime, etc.
Altogether, e-Estonia Briefing Centre hosted over 430 delegations with almost 6500 individuals. And for the 14th year, Germany was the TOP country to visit us, followed by Brazil and the United States.
Deputy Prime Minister for Digitalisation of the Czech Republic, Mr Ivan Bartoš
To name a few of our esteemed visitors in 2022:
- H.E. Dr Edouard Ngirente – Prime minister of Rwanda;
- Mr Ivan Bartoš – Deputy Prime Minister for Digitalisation and Minister of Regional Development, Office of the Government of the Czech Republic;
- Mr George Vella – President of Malta;
- Mr Eduard Heger – Prime Minister of Slovak Republic;
- Ms Roberta Metsola – President of the European Parliament;
- Ms MAKISHIMA Karen – Minister for Digital Transformation of Japan;
- Mr Micheál Martin T.D – Prime Minister of Ireland;
- Mr Albin Kurti – Prime Minister of Kosovo;
- Ms Carme Artigas – Secretary of State for Digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence of Spain;
- Mr Nate Glubish – Honourable Minister of Alberta, Canada.
X-Road in Mexico
A good indicator between the expectations of the delegations and the values offered by the centre are also the success stories of business programs, which we organised over 100 last year. The idea is to match international delegations with Estonian private and public sector experts and companies who have built our digital solutions. Following the success of recent years, also this year, the interest was towards e-government (e-government strategy, data exchange, AI strategy, cyber security etc) and also smart mobility. We are more than happy if people who visit us get inspired and travel home with at least some important key takeaways and ideas to implement. But our hearts melt if we see concrete results and fruitful cooperation being born out of our meetings.
And one of the great recent examples comes from the other side of the world – Mexico. Last year Roksnet, a Tallinn-headquartered company devoted to building digital ecosystems, partnered with Querétaro, a federal state in central Mexico with a population of 2.4 million, to explore embedding Estonia’s X-Road protocol into its digital agenda. According to Carlos Vargas, representatives from Querétaro, the Briefing Centre played a pivotal role in putting them in touch with Roksnet. “With work from both sides, we have managed to integrate our expertise with their plans,” he said.
From unicorns to digital well-being
Our Digital Transformation advisers, or the frontends, as we call them, Carmen Raal and Erika Piirmets are the ones who brief the delegations on e-Estonia. And they are also sought-after keynote speakers and panellists globally. For Erika, one of the highlights of 2022 were the Disraptors Summit in the Czech Republic and ITAPA Innovation Conference in Slovakia. “It was wonderful to discuss Estonia-Slovakia experiences in developing convenient life event-based services and recognising many similarities between the two countries in one of the flagship tech events in Bratislava,” shared Erika. “And Startup collaborations and knowledge sharing in one of the most vibrant tech-scene in central Europe, in the Czech Republic, has turned some extra pairs of eyes to observe what Estonia is doing,” she added.
For Carmen Raal, digital well-being was one of the recurring topics of 2022. Both Digital Wellness Day and SYNC Digital Wellbeing Summit touched upon new opportunities and challenges that the digital era brings. “The big question is how we reap as much benefit as possible from technological solutions and make sure that the impact of digital solutions on the mental health (especially of young people) is as minimal as possible,” concluded Carmen. “I also really enjoyed introducing Estonian smart city solutions at the GoTech World 2022 in Romania. The high interest from the Romanian audience was really inspiring for me,” she added.
Is the hype real?
e-Estonia Briefing Centre didn’t just host public and private sector delegations, but international media found us also, and in September, we were happy to host 12 international journalists who came to Estonia to find out if the hype was real. In four days, we dived into the land of unicorns, witnessed the future of smart cities in Tartu, and met Bürokratt, the AI-driven public service assistant creating seamless interactions between people and the state.
We also helped out the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications in running an international campaign for a new and innovative procurement process to find developers that will work on the nation’s Siri of digital public services, Bürokratt. The number of applications we received was quite impressive – 47 in total – and from those, 23 were international tenderers.
Steady growth for e-Estonia podcast “The Art of Digitalisation”
Last but not least, our little success cannot be left unmentioned. We have seen a solid increase in the number of our monthly e-Estonia podcast listeners. Since we started in 2021, we have reached almost 10k downloads, while almost 60% of the downloads took place in 2022. That is a 156% increase compared to the previous year. We are very pleased with the fact that almost 80% of our listeners come from outside Estonia, and that is our goal – raise awareness around e-governance, digitalisation etc., abroad. The main audience, after Estonia, comes from Germany, the USA, the UK and Japan.
The most popular episodes from 2022 are:
- S2E2: What can we learn from digital Ukraine? | Jaanika Merilo, Adviser of Ukrainian Minister of Digital Transformation
- S2E4: On digital resilience | Merle Maigre, senior expert on cyber security
- S2E11: Digital identity should be free for everyone | Laura Kask, CEO of Proud Engineers
- S2E10: eID – a lot of good luck or a great masterplan? | Kalev Pihl, CEO of SK ID Solutions
So if you haven’t had the chance to get acquainted with the e-Estonia podcast yet, we recommend you start with the latest episode, which is also the first one fresh from the oven in 2023 with the Government CIO of Estonia.
Towards a more strategic approach
We have set the centre’s goals for the new year also based on quality – more delegations who come to Estonia intending to solve specific problems and challenges with the help of Estonian experience and competencies. In 2023 we will also direct the centre of our focus inside Estonia. We have been operating under different names and concepts for over 14 years. It is time to update the centre’s strategy and set new goals for the continued success of Estonia’s best-known brand, e-Estonia, in the world!