On 6th of October, I had the honour of delivering a keynote at Campus Party technology conference in Paraguay. It is the largest innovation and creativity conference in the world, which has already had 82 editions in 14 countries with more than 3 million participants. Campus Party Paraguay had approximately 8000 tech-enthusiasts in attendance, who were keen to invest their knowledge into technology as a tool to change the world and create a better tomorrow.
The population of Paraguay is 6,8 million. This is why I see several similarities between Estonia and Paraguay, both in the size of population and citizens’ desire for better and more transparent public services to fight corruption.
Paraguay has formulated a National Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) Plan in order to boost digital transformation. They have brought out the main challenges of Paraguay today. As the average rate of growth of gross domestic product has increased 6% in past 6 years, competitiveness remains still very poor and the institutional framework should be more transparent and efficient. Paraguay needs more diversity and the productive matrix should be more competitive. In the Digital Agenda they have defined the actions that should be taken in order to increase the use of ICT, improve the quality of life, and create more competitive companies, but also to improve ICT investments by supporting youth, entrepreneurs and companies. They are also planning to up-front financing and provision of specialised services for the start-up and innovative digital enterprises.
What Paraguay could learn from Estonia?
In my keynote I made an overview how the entire process started in Estonia from 1991 and what were the key elements to force this digital transformation in such a small state. Leadership was undoubtedly the root of such a success story. Young, forward-thinking and daring leaders made Estonia take this unfamiliar path, which has led us to the point where 99% of public services are accessible online today. Even more, all structures of public services need to be easily accessible and designed in a citizen-centric way. Paraguay has made the first steps to provide eIDs for citizens, which is fundamental in boosting digital transformation.
One essential step is also to increase digital literacy to enhance people’s ability to use technology to create, evaluate and find information requiring technical skills and knowledge. Estonia has created a number of programmes both for the elderly and the school kids to increase IT literacy in order for people to be able to use e-services, access and use the internet safely, and also use digital skills in their professional career. One of such examples was The Progetiger Programme, which starts already from preschool, but is also aimed at primary and vocational education, and has reached 85% of schools.
Another useful tool would be a similar system like X-road in Estonia which helps us to decrease the level of costs and make the process of data exchange quicker and more efficient. As some services are already built, X-road would help Paraguay to connect existing platforms to new ones.
My visit to Paraguay was very exciting yet educational. As mentioned before, there are many similarities between these two small states and getting this digital transformation started in Paraguay is just a matter of making that one decision now. I hope my keynote inspired the audience and brought a bit more faith that it is possible to create a digital society in Paraguay as well. Seeing thousands of young tech-inspired people spending their weekend building robots and holding discussions on the possibilities to strengthen cooperation between private and public sector, I am sure this country will have a very bright future.
Thank you, Paraguay and the entire Campus Party team for such a well-organized conference and your hospitality!