Latin America is an alluring market for Estonian information technologies companies, and Mexico, with its federated government and population of 129 million, represents as much of a challenge as an opportunity.
Earlier this 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, Roksnet’s Latin American director, the dialogue with Querétaro began in the spring. By the first week of June, X-Road, the secure data exchange that serves as the backbone for Estonia’s digital ecosystem, had already gone live in the Mexican state.
Paying attention to the Latin American market
“For the last couple of years, we have been paying attention to the Latin American market,” commented Vargas. Roksnet’s mission is to improve the public sector as best as possible via interoperability and digital transformation while using Estonia’s experience as a benchmark.
The company has similar partnerships in place from the Cayman Islands to Kyrgyzstan.
“It’s also important to know the Estonian experience deep enough to acknowledge the mistakes made and teach other countries how to avoid them in their digital transformation process,” Vargas added.
An e-strategy game
Regarding Latin America, Vargas said some unique factors are at play in trying to “tropicalize some of the Estonian digital government components.” These include the size of the countries’ populations, differences in political organization, and the extent of administration. As the governments of Latin American countries can be federated, meaning that different political entities comprise the overall administration, he said it can be difficult to align a digital project at a state level.
“Therefore, another perspective is needed on how to adapt the technology and make it work in pieces,” said Vargas. “It’s more like an e-strategy game.”
Roksnet was founded by Riho Oks in 2016 to export Estonian digital solutions based on the X-Road to other users worldwide. Oks played a role in the development of the X-Road as an advisor for RIA, the Estonian System Authority, where he was an advisor for 13 years. The company’s services include a maturity level assessment by its team of experts, assistance in setting up public services, and advice on maintaining, administering, and directing the new digital ecosystem.
According to Vargas, representatives from Querétaro reached out to the e-Estonia Briefing Centre for assistance. The briefing center played a pivotal role in putting them in touch with Roksnet, which seemed a good fit for the undertaking given its prior experience in Latin America with clients in Colombia; Vargas said that his company “clicked perfectly” with its new Mexican client, which showed interest in Roksnet’s ability to export knowledge around X-Road. “With work from both sides, we have managed to integrate our expertise with their plans,” he said.
Alessio Hagen, the director of digital cities for Dell Technologies in Latin America, has been working on the Digital Querétaro project. He said the Mexican state aims to consolidate its government databases and services. “Rather than starting from scratch and trying to replicate what has been done in other countries, we decided to call e-Estonia and learn from them to make this happen,” Hagen said.
The Digital Querétaro
The Digital Querétaro project has multiple pillars of which the X-Road serves as a core platform. One is to transfer its government resources and services and make them interoperable and accessible via a single platform. The project also aims to have an application allowing citizens to interact with the new environment.
Digital Querétaro also aims to introduce e-identity; the government passed a law allowing it to do so. Not only will this enable citizens to access state services, but it will also be part of other pillars focused on business and society, allowing users to open and manage their businesses online. “We will give small- and medium-sized businesses access to a new platform, where everyone can open a new company in 24 hours,” said Hagen.
Improving connectivity among various social groups, from the elderly to elementary school students, is another part of the Digital Querétaro project. According to Hagen, Roksnet assists with the effort’s X-Road and e-identity aspects.
Roksnet’s Vargas underscored that e-identity is a cornerstone of any digital ecosystem. “Communication, identification of the receiver and transmitter, and knowing what to share is the base for social interaction,” Vargas said. “Digital and information systems have the same requirements for becoming an ecosystem,” he said, “We help governments achieve that.”
freelance journalist and writer