PHOTO COURTESY OF LISA SAKULENSKY PHOTOGRAPHY

Jüri Ratas, the Prime Minister of Estonia, spoke about digitized societies at the Munk School of Global Affairs on May 25. The talk, titled “Acting Digital New Technologies and Statehood: The Estonian Case,” discussed how Estonia has leveraged technological advances to transform itself in the last 100 years since independence. The prime minister’s speech was followed by a Q&A session moderated by Andres Kasekamp, Chair of Estonian Studies at the Munk School.

Ratas stated that as Estonia “[looks] back at the first 100 years of our independent statehood, we can proudly say that we had enough wisdom and patience and friends to survive despite all the challenges.”

Ratas claimed that the digitalization of Estonian society is part of the country’s commitment “to becoming a hassle-free country choosing to go digital, not only in an attempt to cut costs in public administration but also for the convenience of our people.”

Ratas explained that Estonia has “reached this [digital society] in many aspects already annually at least two per cent of our GDP alone is because of digitalization; in everyday life 99.8 per cent of bank transfers are made electronically, and 96 per cent of income tax declarations are submitted online.” Public health and education systems are also supplemented by “e-health and e-education solutions.”

Looking beyond Estonia, Ratas advocated a single digital European market among the European Union member countries to “make the European Union a single market fit for the digital age.” This market would involve “developing an ambitious digital region including facilitating development of data economy, trade, and artificial intelligence based solutions.”

Ratas stressed that trust is key to Estonia’s digital success. “Let the events involving Cambridge Analytica and Facebook be the lesson for all of us. In the EU we have set the standard high with the data protection rules.”

Interim Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs Randall Hansen also spoke at the event, and highlighted the importance of researching and teaching the history and politics of Estonia. “The country is a leader… in cyber-security and in digital governance and the country can be justly proud of being the Baltic leader in recognizing the rights of LGBTQ peoples.”

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