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Last Tuesday I visited Tallinn, Estonia and met with their prime minister Andrus Ansip together with the AmCham executive team. In his keynote speech Mr. Ansip did not try to hide his pride about the Estonian economy and several consecutive budgets with surplus. 

Estonia can’t be said to be a rich country just yet, but they’re well underway towards that with their fiscal prudency. 

Estonia has also been successful in other government projects. When we acquired part of ITVilla OÜ, our Estonian branch now, I was taken by surprise that the whole documentation was digital and I could have also signed everything digitally – provided that I would have had an Estonian ID card. The same ID card can be used in all banks operating in Estonia, and most private loyalty programs also use just the ID card instead of printing their own plastic. Estonia has also executed electronic voting and they’re building a national electric car charging network, strongly driven by the government. 

My Finnish colleagues argue that these changes are easier to accept for Estonians as they were recently faced with much bigger changes. (Yes, ID cards, e-voting, patient databases and electric car proliferation projects are not something Finns are proud about after multi-million euro project failures). I disagree. 

I believe it is all about leadership, regardless of the nation’s size or demography. A working and enterprise-friendly government (like Estonia’s) can do a lot in order to support local digital industries, both locally and internationally. Not everybody remembers that our Nokia’s mobile phone innovations were strongly rooted in government and defence-related radio companies (Televa, Mobira, Telefenno etc). 

On Monday I’ll join ministers Jyri Häkämies and Alexander Stubb in a panel trying revive the lost catalyst effect the government used to have. Let’s see how it goes. 


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