Ministers, Excellencies, Honourable Audience,
It is a great pleasure to be here this evening.
I was asked to talk about all things digital. And I will. Nevertheless, allow me to make a short trip into Estonia's e-history. It all started as a cost saving exercise. The 1999 confidence crisis on emerging markets, particularly in Eastern Europe, had sapped our national budget from tax revenues. Public spending for 1999 had to be reduced by 5% annually, but since the exercise of cutting spending to match expenditure started in the summer, the reduction was actually 10% of the second half year.
While doing this, the Prime Minister at the time, Mart Laar, came up with the idea of digitalising the government, just as every mid-sized or larger enterprise had already done. The government went paperless and the famous 'e-Estonia' was born. The technology that we used was in no way cutting edge. A year later, we launched a digital signature program. Once again, the technology was well-known and widely available.
Why did this happen in Estonia? Mainly because we realised that efficiency gains matter. Today, the efficiency gains from having an e-signature amount to 2% of GDP.
We pay for our defence out of these savings.
Did we know that it would happen? Definitely not.
I was there, working as an advisor to Prime Minister Laar, and I can tell you, we did not predict the exact impact that going digital would have. We didn't come anywhere close. What we did predict was that we will communicate differently with our people and businesses, saving public money, but also save time and money for people and businesses.
President of the Republic, Kersti Kaljulaid, and the heads of state of Latvia and Lithuania met today in Munich with the Vice President of the United States of America, Mike Pence. The meeting focused on security issues and the participants confirmed the close mutual co-operation between the USA and Europe, and between the USA and the Baltic states.
President of the Republic, Kersti Kaljulaid, will participate in the annual foreign and security policy conference in Munich from Friday until Sunday. The Munich Security Conference is the most important Trans-Atlantic security and foreign policy conference of its kind.
Today in Kadriorg President Kersti Kaljulaid received Letters of Credence from Ambassador of the Republic of Guatemala, Francisco Roberto Gross Hernández-Kramer, who resides in Stockholm and Ambassador of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Phạm Thị Ngọc Bích, who resides in Helsinki.