Lessons From The World’s Most Advanced Digital Society At ADMA Global Forum

Lessons From The World’s Most Advanced Digital Society At ADMA Global Forum

If you needed any further persuading to be at ADMA Global Forum in Sydney on August 30-31, a quick glance at the speaker list will be enough to sway you.

The two day event offers a suite of global experts, tech futurists and marketing gurus. Hey, even the world’s most famous robot, Sophia, will be dropping by for a chat.

But if you’re after one of the more left-of-centre speakers to front an Aussie conference in some time, look no further than Taavi Rõivas who, at the tender age of just 35, became Estonia’s youngest-ever prime minister in 2014.

And now Rõivas is set to electrify ADMA Global Forum as he regales how he transformed one of Europe’s smallest nations (a mere 1.3 million Estonians) by forming one of the globe’s most tech-savvy governments.

Under his prime ministership, Rõivas introduced a universal X-road platform and ID card for each and every Estonian. This acted like a digital identity, including a person’s education, medical history, financial history, social security details, work history and a whole heap more.

You can get a taste here in this handy video:

B&T had the privilege to sit down with Rõivas and have him answer some questions about his experiences as prime minister of Estonia and his approach to achieving a progressive and digitally led-society.

B&T: Tell us about the X-road platform and the ID card, how does it work?

Taavi Rõivas: Every Estonian has a digital identity – either an ID card or mobile-id. This enables us to identify ourselves over the internet at all public or private portals and it is legally speaking equal to showing your passport. With the secure identification it is possible to offer all services digitally as there is no need to go somewhere just to show your passport. It also enables us to sign documents digitally with an encrypted signature, an opportunity to express one’s will without being at the same physical location.

B&T: What makes Estonia so progressive?

TR: There are several reasons for that – very good education, curiousness and courage to try new things. Political leadership plays a role as well, of course.

B&T: Estonia is leading by example on what can be achieved in a digital-led society… were you able to achieve it because of your size? Can other nations scale the Estonian model?

TR: It is perhaps easier to introduce reforms in a smaller society, but technically there is no difference at all – any Estonian e-government service could be used in 100x bigger country and it would not be 100 times more expensive. This is the beauty of digital – upscaling is relatively easy.

B&T: As the youngest PM of Estonia, did growing up in a 1.0, 2.0 world influence you as to the potential of technology to empower?

TR: When I was a kid, I dreamt of a carry-on television that I saw in a commercial. Little did I know, that only two decades later there are smartphones that bring not only TV, but many other devices to everyone’s pocket.

During high school years me and my friends used Fidonet to communicate and that obviously helped a lot to understand the importance of technology.

B&T: Why are Estonian citizens comfortable with divulging so much ‘personal’ data to the government? 

TR: The Estonian government does not ask it’s citizens anything that the Australian or German government would not. The main difference is how to hold the data. I would argue, that in digital space it is much easier to design it this way that only these people can access the data whom you as a citizen give the permission to. We have designed the system this way that the citizens own their data and in some cases – like the health record – can easily close the access for anyone else.

B&T: How can governments and business alike move away from a risk-averse view of tech to one of innovation and adoption?

TR: Government can provide an environment where the companies can grow easily. It means creating a bureaucracy-free environment with business-favourable taxation. It is also important to keep an eye on new developments, like ICO’s as a source for investments for example. Ideally governments are working closely together with the companies to stay on top of new developments.

B&T: Is being customer-centric really what has given Estonia the digital heads-up, setting it apart from the rest of the world?

TR: All governments are there to provide services to the citizens and digital tools simply make it a lot easier and effective. There is no rocket science in it, really.

See Taavi and over 40 influential CX leaders at ADMA Global Forum 2018 on 30-31 August. Click for more information and to see the full program.

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ADMA Global Forum Taavi Rõivas

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