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President of the Republic at the Tallinn e-Governance Conference 2017 30 May 2017

Excellencies,

dear participants of the Tallinn e-Governance Conference 2017!

It is my honour and a great pleasure to welcome you in Estonia. As you can see Estonia is real, not only a virtual state – the image which may occasionally emerge from news and articles about e-Estonia. The fact that so many of you have travelled long distances from so many different continents to be with us today, already demonstrates how keen you are to harness the power of technology for better governance and a better life for your people. It is our devotion to work together, keeping in mind the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030 – an ambitious agenda for all Governments to improve the lives of people everywhere.

A quarter of a century ago when Estonia restored its independent statehood we were a poor country. The crucial question stood in front of us – how to overcome the legacy left to us by the Soviet occupation? Our response was – we need to build up a modern, efficient and democratic state. The radical reforms were carried out in all walks of life. The forward looking idea was to harness the innovative potential of Information and Communication technology (ICT). Neither we nor anyone else knew 20 years ago, how important Internet and ICT would become and what role it would play in the organization of state and society.

The choice we made in favour of technology, was not an easy one. The decision to invest the scarce resources of a newly restored independent state not into repairing potholes in roads or crumbling school-buildings, but into equipping those school-buildings with computers and an Internet connection. In hindsight we can agree that the "Tigerleap" programme, as it was called, gave the entire Estonian society the momentum to make a digital leap into the future. Schoolchildren, having become computer literate, brought their newly acquired skills home and also "infected" their parents (and grandparents) with the digital "bug". Priorities changed for families – instead of a new refrigerator, it was often decided to rather invest into a computer and an Internet connection.

30.05.2017

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