Technology from Estonia

The World

ST says his country has come a long way, �Today we have internet banking solutions where 98% of the transactions in this country are done online. We have electronic signatures, electronic voting and all these things that have been quite successful inside the country and have made a good platform for exporting global success stories to emerge from.� MW �So when the Iron Curtain came down it must’ve seemed like the sky was the limit, but I’m also wondering how hard it seemed at the time that achieving this high tech heaven goal. As one Estonian tech maven recently pointed out, when the first democratically elected president moved into his office, there were six Soviet style telephones on his desk, three red, three green, but not one of them could dial out.� ST �I think no one took technological success as a goal in the first place. I think in any business you’re wanting to, technology was kind of naturally adopted to make that business more efficient. Again bringing in the banking example, instead of establishing a new bank and giving out checkbooks, people immediately went to setting up an internet bank because it’s more efficient. And that way the successful technological solutions actually came out of business needs rather than the drive for technology.� MW �Well Estonia saw efficiency in some of these technologies. I suppose there was a lot of optimism there. Was anybody saying, oh what about fraud, this could be very dangerous, we’re going to give away our own personal wealth online.� ST �well at the time there was not much to give up. So that certainly helped. And the other thing is, Estonia being very small, as you know we have only 1.4 million people living in this country, it’s quite easy or you have to involve a sensible amount of people to already achieve critical mass and make a way of doing things common or popular.� MW �now you just indicated Estonia is small, 1.4 million people and the tech sector reflects that, only about 10,000. is that small tech sector though more talented than other countries? Make the case for Estonia.� ST �Definitely Estonia is not there to compete with the global powerhouses. I think what has been the key factor in Estonian success thus far has been exactly the small number of people. Just to give you an example, the first version of Skype software was developed by four guys in two months, maybe four months. So when you have very little human resources in starting any project, what you have to think about is how to do things better, how to put in as little effort as possible for the maximum gain.� MW �fast, cheap, and out of control. what is the risk of people going elsewhere, a brain drain happening in Estonia?� ST �in some countries in Eastern Europe this has been a major issue but interestingly enough not in Estonia. The infrastructure here is very good, it’s a naturally beautiful country and people who live here really like living here, so I don’t see the risk of a heavy outflow as it hasn’t happened over the last 15 years.� MW �So then to come full circle from the report we just heard, do you think it’s a good idea for the Estonian government to be spending time and money trying to get the attention of Silicon Valley? It sounds like everything is great in Estonia, why do you need to go anywhere else?� ST �well it doesn’t make much sense to develop something great for the Estonian market only. So I think that is the main goal behind Estonia reaching out to the world, Silicon Valley being one of them. And I think not speaking for the Estonian government, but I would think they think of Silicon Valley not only as a market but also as a place to learn how to build up pure environments starting from education and financing and marketing so you can become successful as an economy.�

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