January 2023 marks the first anniversary of our Digital Transformation Advisers at the e-Estonia Briefing Centre. Carmen and Erika (who we call “e-Estonia frontend”) have shared the story of e-Estonia with 7000 people this year. But it’s about time for our readers to get to know these two. So we asked both some questions related to their work, digitalisation, academia etc.
What have you learned about the digital state on the personal and professional level?
Erika: I always say to my audience that in addition to being a digital transformation adviser with a mission to introduce our digital state, I am also the “digital citizen” of the same country. And previously, my knowledge was limited to the end-user side. Therefore, working in the Briefing Centre has allowed me to go into depth about an e-state and learn what it consists of.
I am truly grateful for meeting many bright minds behind Estonia’s digital services and learning first-hand from their past and current experiences. In the midst of all this, it has not been primarily a matter of learning but rather a recognition of how other countries around the world value Estonia’s experiences and consider us role model. I am privileged to receive their comments and admiration for our advanced digital society, and I wish I could share this feeling with every Estonian to make them feel as proud of our state as I am.
What has been your biggest learning experience as a Digital Transformation Adviser?
Carmen: Technology itself won’t solve anything, and we cannot separate it from everything else. To build up inclusive human-centric solutions, we need good teamwork. Although data can travel freely in Estonia, it still does not mean that we have eliminated the issues of people working in silos, but to take full advantage of a highly digitalised society, both components need to work well – the digital and the human.
What might be the obstacles to the further development of the success of Estonia’s digital state, and how could we overcome them?
Erika: In my opinion, since technology is advancing rapidly and innovation happens everywhere, the trap we could fall into is getting distracted by trying to catch all the trends. No one can be good at everything. I hope e-Estonia follows the same citizen-centric approach it has so far, focusing on the user needs perspective rather than technology only. But on the other hand, there is also the question of not missing important trends. Apparently, Estonia was snoozing when the shift to mobile happened. Our praised digital state is currently the best in its desktop browser version, but we lag in being an application government. This is what will be solved only now, in 2023. Therefore, I wish our decision-makers rationality and instinct for innovation. Instead of storming after every cool toy, they should catch the innovation wave on its way up to surf at the peak of it.
Describe your biggest moment of success so far
Erika: All of my successes are my team’s success and merit. I have felt most content when they have found real value in my efforts. I could also draw the same parallel with the digital state when asked who is responsible for the great outcome. In my opinion, everyone’s collective effort starts from the same values and working for the same goals. I am lucky to be surrounded by the supportive e-Estonians who contribute to our success daily.
Do you have a favourite topic you could talk about all day?
Erika: I often get asked to select my favourite digital service, and my answer is always e-Estonia. It’s the integral wholesome digital ecosystem with all its parts because removing one will lose an important component. Still, again, every one of them together make our e-state convenient and seamless.
When I have to focus on a very narrow topic, I am robbing you of the opportunity to understand the power of synergy and wholesomeness. I find violins to be excellent instruments and violinists remarkable specialists, but if you want to listen to a musical masterpiece, a whole array of instruments needs to sound together in a symphony. And (e-)Estonia sounds together in symphony.
Do you think there are limitations to further development a successful digital nation? If so, what are they, and how could we overcome them?
Carmen: The biggest limitation, as always, is the lack of resources. Legacy starts piling up, and simultaneously, while taking care of legacy systems, innovation can’t stay behind. Finding a balance between those two can be challenging. More and more effort has been put into maintaining and innovating our digital society while not
letting legacy pile up. Our system architects and other crucial partners are working on great solutions. Additionally, we need to put more resources into cyber security to become more cyber resilient.
Carmen, how do you balance a full-time job and studying for a master’s degree?
Carmen: It is not an easy job. There are some periods when I can manage without sweat, but I have noticed that busy times at work and the university tend to overlap. This is where things get tricky, but everyone has been really understanding. I am very thankful to the professors who give extensions to assignments I cannot deliver on time. My classmates have agreed to take detailed notes so I wouldn’t fall too far behind when I travel for work and cannot attend lectures. What’s more, my family and friends are supportive and considerate. Most importantly, I enjoy my work and studies, which keep me going even when I feel overwhelmed and tired.