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President of the Republic at the World Knowledge Forum

Dear friends,

I am standing here representing the world's only digital society which actually has a State on its side – the Estonian digital society of 1.3 million people, our whole population, because in our case it is all-inclusive.

We have already gone through a societal disruption to make sure that our citizens and businesses have a digital environment to deal with both the State and with their private partners.

I would like to add two important notices – first it is very easy to design leapfrogging strategies and find ways to change your society if you have your partners and allies. Our multilateral cooperation, our international security architecture, which guarantees the right of small nations to exist. Otherwise this could not have happened. So we have never been in this alone, never claimed that it was only us—Estonians—who made this possible. All our partners globally—in the United Nations, EU, NATO—you all have a part in making Estonia the digital society it is.

Second important notice: Estonia is not a technology developing country. At no point during digital transformation of our society has Estonia created cutting-edge technology. Tech-wise, all what we use is pretty mundane, it is commonly used by other actors, mostly private.

It is good, because it makes it cheap, it makes it reliable. Part of it is even open source, namely our e-voting system, so everybody can try to hack it, nobody has managed, but you can try, if you feel like doing it. We invite you all to please try.


Therefore, the difference in Estonian society compared to other developed societies, this disruptive innovation this is not technology itself, the innovation lies elsewhere – in the process of bringing businesses and government together to help all people, young and old, to benefit from technological developments invented by others. 1,3 million people and a small economy cannot create, but we can quickly follow. We are the quick followers, not creators of technology. I think this is encouraging to all similar nations. Already for 17 years, Estonians have a digital ID and we can use this to sign and time stamp, very important – almost like block chain, but from the beginning of the century –documents, including private contracts, we can apply for different public services, pay fines and taxes on-line, query the registries, and simply send encrypted e-mails.

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