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Discussing digital society means discussing society

What else would you expect than having your last week at the e-Estonia Briefing Centre to be one of the busiest. During those five days I presented Estonia’s e-governance story to the Governor General of Canada Julie Payette, the Secretary of the Party Central Committee of Vietnam Nguyen Xuan Thang, and finally the Prime Minister of Bermuda David Burt. Meanwhile, my colleagues kept busy with the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, who was accompanied by almost half his government to the e-Estonia Briefing Centre. Not to forget the other delegations that we hosted as a team during the week.

Even after two years at the Briefing Centre, I’m still amazed by the frequency of international high-level delegations visiting Estonia and their interest in e-Estonia. Estonia doesn’t get tired of emphasising its domestic and international digital agenda, and this is what it needs to face the societal challenges of our times. Administration is crucial for the relationship between state and citizen, but it should happen effortlessly and free up resources for the actual pressing issues of our times. There are more important things than shuffling paper.

I’d like to use this short article to sincerely thank the people at Enterprise Estonia and, of course, my colleagues at the Briefing Centre, and all our partners in the Estonian ministries, agencies and companies. I was taken in right from the beginning as an equal and got a chance to dive deep into the principles behind Estonian digital administration. Not being an Estonian citizen, I believe it was the highest moment of recognition for me when earlier this year I got the chance to brief His Majesty King of the Belgians about this very topic. I’m highlighting that because everything digital is so inherent to the functioning of the Estonian society, that I consider it a great honour to be given that kind of trust to address this with a state visitor.

Also, I won’t ever forget the time I happened to chat with one of our visitors. I had no idea who he was aside from the fact he was from the UK. We discussed electronic identity, data management and cyber security related questions and at the end of our talk we exchanged business cards. I couldn’t believe my eyes, when I realised that I had just discussed the mentioned topics with a high-ranking member of the Brown government from about ten years back.

To conclude, the Briefing Centre is a unique place that doesn’t only talk about Estonia, but also facilitates discourse about issues that become ever more important. How do we want our societies to make use of technology, how do we govern personal data, and how do we protect ourselves from the threats out there? When we’re discussing digital societies, I’m convinced, that we’re actually discussing society. I’m thankful for the time I got to be on that side of the discussion and I’m heading on now, to get a new perspective to chip in.

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The goal of e-Estonia Briefing Centre is to inspire global policy makers, political leaders, corporate executives, investors and international media with the success story of e-Estonia and build links to leading IT service providers.

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