Leadership, 21st Century Style
It was just one of those weeks in early autumn, when Sven used to take his time off from the big city. He enjoyed visiting the countryside house, relaxing in fresh air, watching his flock of sheep peacefully eating grass and still being connected to the world. The sun was shining and Sven 60 year jubilee was due in a couple of weeks. He was sitting in a meadow and meticulously going through the news and neatly organized electronic documents on his iPad. He was alone, except for the sheep, it was quiet and he couldn’t have asked for a better working environment.
Sven learned that the outcome of the election had been a highly positive one. As a member of the party, Sven was overly joyous when he realized he was proposed to become a minister of Finance in the new cabinet. He was certain that the time was now ready for some actual changes to spring to life and he promised to himself and later the rest of the cabinet that he had the solution to significantly cut the government spending.
Estonian e-Cabinet system was already in existence when the new cabinet of ministers was formed and the fresh minister of finance made it his first point to put it to full usage. Naturally, everyone knew about it in theory – how the e-Cabinet would save money and could radically change the way a government was run. But what was really surprising, is how the implementation of the system had immediate effects on everyone.
This was the actual first step in his government’s action plan: 2 weeks later, when the ministers and their assistants arrived solely with their laptops between their fingers one morning, it looked and felt different. With their laptops containing the very same documents which otherwise would have needed to be printed out, documents all ready to be signed electronically – the efficiency, mobility and the ability to choose the personal preparation time (and the place) for the meetings made more sense than any other previous solution.
During that morning, they were all given the PM’s weekly agenda for the cabinet meeting. Reading it well before the meeting now gives everyone a chance to let the PM know in advance whether someone wants to raise objections to any of his proposals. Sven was still in the countryside, already fully informed about the points of topic for the coming day. It was the day before the jubilee. When he woke up next morning, hundreds of kilometers away from the capital, the cabinet meeting was to start in an hour. Sven made himself a warm cup of coffee, went over the points on the agenda and opened his laptop. Since the cabinet meetings were now also available online, all the ministers could take part remotely and still make their voice heard. Thus, the entire decision-making process also became more transparent and understandable for the citizens since they could watch the meetings online and later add their comments to what they had heard. Being able to read the weekly agenda in advance, the length of the cabinet meetings has now dropped from that of a half-day affair to a constructive and well-prepared 60 minutes. The second half of that day, Sven decided to spend with his family, who has gathered to celebrate his jubilee.
When the new government had used the system for a month, they sat down to add up some numbers. The calculations showed that collectively, their ten ministers had been saving up to 30 working hours per week – a considerable amount of time now devoted to other important issues on the table. Moving from physical signatures to digital ones also marked a great change in cost-effectiveness. Just to make sure whether all their calculations had proven correct, Sven used the digital signature cost-profit calculator on the Certification Centre’s homepage (http://sk.ee/en/useful/digitalsigning) to see how much his government already had and would be cutting down on costs in the future by simply using digital signatures. The sum was remarkable and had a positive impact saving the nature.
By introducing the paperless e-Cabinet system to the government, an immediate boost was given to four significant areas – speed, cutting down on costs, efficiency and saving the environment. On a social and psychological scale, it carries yet another additional value: giving ministers more flexibility and thus, more time, to concentrate on different issues at hand.