“Nations need to find their

own roadmaps and not copy what others have done. Too often we see governments blindly copy from each other. We have heard it said within the World Bank, the UN and the European Com- mission: ‘Let’s have a standard cloud-based e-government ap- plication for poor countries.’ “Tat’s a very technocratic

approach and is not focussing on the real issue; what is the benefit and how in a proper way can my community, my society, implement digital solutions? Successful implementation of a digital solution depends on a lot on factors which are analogue not digital; that is, cultural, social, economic, regulatory, and institutional. We are preaching diversity.” For Estonia, Viik and his com-

patriots are looking ahead; what is novel now, that will become

Citizens can monitor their data and see if any government or private institution has sought access. Te aim is to replicate the ease with which a child can be registered, and parents receive entitlements, right across gov- ernment services.

Another novelty now is the ‘digital agent’; whereby citizens can hand-off decision-making – should a parking ticket be paid on the due date or straight away, for example - to the agent which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect when a decision is required and makes the choice, based on the citizen’s preferenc- es. “But what is going to people’s comfort zone in allowing artifi- cial intelligence to act on their behalf?”, asks Viik. Te Estonian Government is

“Too often we see governments blindly copy from each other…we are preaching diversity” Linnar Viik

the norm in five to 10 years? So- called zero bureaucracy is one; for example, from the moment parents register a new-born child with a swipe of their digital ID card, and receive a welcom- ing email from the government, they are able to record the name online, will automatically receive child support and a place at nursery, as well as parental rights for work-leave. Te platform is underpinned

by software called X-Road, a decentralised data exchange system that links databases. Outgoing data is digitally signed and encrypted, and all incoming data is authenticated and logged.

already using AI to oversee some services. For example, inspectors no longer check on farmers who receive government subsidies to cut their hay fields each summer. Satellite images taken are fed into a deep-learning algorithm which assesses each pixel in the images, determining if the patch of the field has been cut or not. Two weeks before the mowing deadline, the automated system notifies farmers via text or email that includes a link to the satellite image of their field. Te system has saved more than $1m a year. “Te e-Estonia story is a

parable of the young nation become high-tech Shangri-La,” observed Peter Ferry, Estonia’s Honorary Consul in Edinburgh, “e-government fan boys enthuse over Estonia’s digital transforma- tion. A nation enabled by leading edge technologies - which built world-leading digital public services that pulled the state and its economy up by its bootstraps. Tey ask why their own home governments, with greater resources, can’t ‘digitalise’ and achieve half of the Estonians success? But Estonia isn’t hi- tech. It’s just tech savvy.” l

Linnar Viik will be speaking at the second annual Digital Scotland Conference in Glasgow on 30 May

SPRING 2019 | 9

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