In July 2017 Estonia takes over the EU Presidency for 6 months. It is not only a responsibility but also great opportunity for Estonia to hold whole EU to talk about the topics which are most important for them. Estonia has already named four priorities for the Presidency, those are:
- an open and innovative European economy
- a safe and secure Europe
- a digital Europe and the free flow of data
- an inclusive and sustainable Europe.
Estonia has said it clearly that every initiative in EU should be designed to facilitate the lives of businesses and citizens and to reduce bureaucracy using as many e-solutions as possible. Probably there was no doubt before either that one of the main focuses for Estonia will be on digitisation and e-solutions during their Presidency
Estonian motivation to show itself as a digital technology and public services innovator is definitely high and ambition to secure this position even higher. It is great opportunity for Estonia to introduce their hassle-free and technically advanced e-state in larger scale and influence EU policies in digital field. As said by Estonian Government CIO, Siim Sikkut “If you don’t renew services constantly there will be others who will come and make better services. Therefore Estonia has to try constantly to make things better.” Though Estonia might look hassle-free from those coming outside, there still is relative amount of bureaucracy which could be solved with IT solutions. Lately government made an announcement that they will be formally switching over to modern ways of administrative procedure which will result in public e-services that will predominantly function invisibly - in other words, once only or completely automatically. Estonia wants to be one of the first countries to give up on paper files fully and replace the state’s interaction with the citizens and the entrepreneurs with smart services.
Therefore, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has put together a regulation, approved lately at Government hearing, which puts in place the principles of service management and information governance that will become compulsory to follow. The regulation puts in place the principles of provision, development and quality of direct public services. The regulation focuses especially on services where there is an interaction between the citizen or entrepreneur and the state – applications, reports, notices etc. Authorities are required to use the existing information about the person or the entrepreneur to create services that function automatically based on the existing data.
For example if entrepreneur gives approval to the state that state can access their data in accounting software, declarations would be filled automatically and entrepreneur would not have to fill any additional declarations by themselves anymore.
Less than a week ago one fo the flagship startup and tech events – Latitude 59 was held in Tallinn. Conference brought together more than 2000 startup representatives and investors all around the world. Participants were definitley not only interested in finding new business and investment opportunities but also were interested what Estonia as digital society plans to come up with next. During the Conference breakthrough announcement was made by E-residency programme director Mr. Kaspar Korjus who announced that e-residnecy programme has just joined forces with the Finnish fintech company Holvi to provide borderless business banking for all the e-residents who want to make borderless business and for whom opening Estonian bank account has been a hassle so far. Improving access to banking has been a key focus of e-Residency team during the public beta phase of development and it has also been mentioned several times that there is another option that doesn’t depend on traditional banks. Business banking is going to radically transform in coming years as increasing amount of fintech companies are going to disrupt traditional banking industry heavily.
Hopefully E-residency initiative and Estonian business environment in general has only to win from this disruption.
Leaders of Estonia use every opportunity to emphasize the importance of IT and digital innovation and make every effort to change Estonian business environment more competitive and attractive for foreign entrepreneurs as well. President of Estonia, Mrs. Kersti Kaljulaid said in her Independence Day Speech in February that Estonia could offer a portable environment with limited bureaucracy. “The portable state not only helps the IT and start-up economies, but also the traditional players. The English entrepreneur afraid of Brexit can find shelter from the storm here. If entrepreneurs build a superstructure for e-residents that is as awesome as the one they have built for e-Estonians, then Estonia will be among the winners of this century.”