Estonia calls for global entrepreneurs to use the country as a digital testbed

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid and Government CIO Siim Sikkut made a global call to entrepreneurs who are searching for a way to test solutions to wicked problems in the real world.

“Now we have a challenge for you. What if we give you a country for a year, what would you do with it?”

Siim Sikkut, the Government CIO

On June 9-11 Estonian government opens virtual doors for office hours, giving participants have an opportunity to meet the digital nation’s leadership and pitch them a working moonshot solution to a global problem and test their readiness to validate it through a country-wide pilot.

“The Estonian digital governance model allows us to call ourselves the worlds’ first digital society and has catalyzed change in the European Union already,” Kersti Kaljulaid, Estonian President, said in a statement.

“We have legally permissive space for digital governance models to evolve and strong cross-sectoral cooperation of top performers from public and private sectors. We have combined these strengths and created a national testbed programme Accelerate Estonia for bold ideas that have the potential to change not only Estonia’s future but also to lead global developments,” the president said.

“Estonia has dared to be a pathfinder in novel solutions. The result of many years of work is an open society, characterized by a strong digital infrastructure, a public sector accustomed to managing rapid change, and a “Let’s do it!” mentality.

“We are used to trying bold ideas, because that is what has brought us to the modern day, where all public services are online, businesses can be registered in a matter of minutes and our services are used by e-Residents from around the world,” says Government Chief Innovation Officer Siim Sikkut.

Accelerate Estonia’s focus topics for 2021 are mental health and green turn, but also the door is left open for those ideas, which do not fit into the two focus themes, but promise significant global impact on urgent problems if successful.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the challenges in the areas of mental health and the green turn. However, rapid developments in these areas depend on cross-sectoral cooperation and a willingness to bring about change quickly. Estonia is a fertile ground for ambitious entrepreneurs to experiment and develop their solutions: attested to by the highest rate of startup unicorns in the world. And we have more startups per person than Silicon Valley!” said Sikkut.

It’s not all hunky-dory though in digital Estonia. In a widely criticised real-life test example, more than 50,000 Estonians — some 4% of the nation — have been simultaneously in a virtual queue this week to book a timeslot for vaccination. In comparison – a similar scale queue in the United States would include some 13 million people.