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Saturday, 4.07.2020
eGovernment Forschung seit 2001 | eGovernment Research since 2001

Fully integrated public services and full compliance with data privacy rules is the way to build a secure and broad-based digital society.

The coronavirus has accelerated the application of digital technologies. Big jumps in digital activity have been reported in countries that have imposed the strictest lockdowns. Remote working, online teaching, medical assistance, commerce, and teleconferencing have become a “new normal.” There are no proven guidelines as to how to act in these trying times. Digital infrastructure, however, allows us to observe the most important treatment available today—social distancing.

The Global Statshot Report of April 2020 suggests that the world’s digital behaviour has changed dramatically over the first three months of 2020. Billions of people have turned to online devices to help them cope with life and work under lockdowns. Today 4.57 billion people use the internet, which represents an increase of seven per cent over the same time last year. The number of social media users has grown even faster, reaching 3.81 billion. The number of mobile phone users has grown by 128 million over the past 12 months, and approximately two-thirds of the world’s total population now uses a mobile phone.

Estonia started building its information society in the 1990s, at a time when most people did not have access to the internet. Today, the spread of wireless technologies and the development of Estonia’s e-Governance ecosystems has ensured the continuity and sustainability of the public sector services for citizens and private enterprises and has had a tangible impact on quality of life.

There are many examples of services that could be adopted by Canada. A fully automated unemployment insurance registry allows citizens to apply for unemployment benefits or allowances, confirmed by a digital stamp, which is legally equal to that of a physical signature. An electronic fisheries management system provides data on fishing opportunities and licenses, ensuring contact-free and sustainable fishing and simplified fishing surveillance. Many other smart applications are related to health, education, security, transport, and other sectors.

Digital solutions combined with good cyber security preparedness have proved their usefulness in minimizing the negative effects of hybrid threats, such as cyber-attacks and the spread of disinformation. They also enable us to address climate change issues and speed up the transition towards a green economy.

Estonian IT-cluster companies organized the “Hack the Crisis” hackathon, which rapidly grew into a worldwide movement. Over the Easter weekend, the Estonian-initiated global online hackathon provided solutions that were inspired by aspects of practical life and by the UN’s sustainable development goals. Similarly, the EU Commission hosted the pan-European “EU vs Virus” hackathon to develop innovative solutions aimed at fighting the pandemic.

Fully integrated public services and full compliance with data privacy rules is the way to build a secure and broad-based digital society.

Today, the world is concerned with an imminent and deep economic recession, and a disruption of existing global supply and value chains.

In the post-pandemic world, economic growth needs an accelerator. Digitalization of society, employment of new technologies, and business models using the potentials of information technology may become a key factor.

Last February, the European Commission unveiled its White Paper on Artificial Intelligence: a set of ideas for a digital transformation of Europe. Over the next five years, the Commission will focus on three key objectives; technology for people, a vibrant and sustainable economy, and sustainable democratic society. The digital future of Europe reflects and reinforces the concept of European integration and solidarity and the importance of shared freedoms and values.

The New York Times recently assessed that some countries might have a competitive edge on their way out of the COVID-19 crisis. Estonia is among them due to the digital nature of its society, the thriving startup ecosystem, and its agile business and government partnerships. Estonia’s experience in the digital state is unique to the world. Because of its digital society, Estonia has been able to keep most of its national systems and infrastructure running smoothly.

The coronavirus knows no borders and, therefore, international co-operation is our best weapon. The spread of the coronavirus has shown that there is a great need to support the development of countries in their digitization journey and to ensure access to secure digital services. Estonia is ready to share its experiences and help other countries to implement large-scale public sector digitization projects. Digital skills can contribute to the resolution of international crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the coronavirus constitutes a serious threat to international peace and security, Estonia, a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, intends to pay special attention to these aspects during its UNSC presidency in May and beyond.

Employing digital methods and new innovative solutions to organize public life may face failures and risks along the way, but it is even more risky not to embrace digital change at all. Estonia has the necessary experience and references to share the skills of building a secure digital society.

Digital solutions, if used smartly, make economies grow, governments more efficient and the world a better place. Digital society, if widely practiced, is not just a norm, but a lifestyle.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Toomas Lukk

Quelle/Source: The Hill Times, 13.05.2020

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