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‘E’ is key in Estonia

You could see Estonia as a 4G Nirvana.
Or maybe I should say Valhalla, since we’re in this part of the world. Estonia is a classic underdog-becomes-the-champion story, as far as a Networked Society goes.

In 1991 the country was just finding its way after the fall of the Soviet Union. President Toomas Ilves tells the story of being offered free legacy equipment for fixed lines from a neighboring country. He said no. That was the best decision he made for the country, because now he regularly hosts other world leaders to show how e-democracy and e-governance can create a healthy economy and society.
Today, in a seminar at his gathering “Estonia’s Friends,” Ilves told how 95 percent of all banking and tax declarations are done online. The country is a hotbed of innovation. He also said that in a global contest of the 30 best startups, seven of the top-placers came from Estonia.
We interviewed Ilves a while ago and his quotes are still worth repeating.

Estonia is working with the Wolfram Group to rejig how it teaches mathematics to students. (Stop teaching kids to calculate. Instead, teach them to ask the right questions, then translate into computation. Let a computer compute, then teach the students to translate it back into good language.)
Conrad Wolfram, celebrated TED talker and all-round very, very clever person, has a list of characteristics that make Estonia successful:
1. Apply technology everywhere
2. First is good (he says if you wait for proof of success before you try an idea, you’ve already blown it)
3. Change has been good; let’s do more (when was the last time you heard anyone say that AND MEAN IT)
4. Strong brand – Estonia has built its reputation as “E-stonia”
5. Direct and proactive openness
6. Nimble
7. Rule of law but push against boundaries
8. Smart trumps effort
I think this is a list of courageous qualities. So yes, it takes courage to make the Networked Society come to life – to dare to leave behind the old ways of doing things.
Catching ideas is a big part of anyone’s strategy these days, and it’s a clear element of our Networked Society story – watch THIS MOVIE (Networked Society Simplified) for the recipe.
Last week, I was with our head of Sustainability, Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, for a brainstorming session hosted by CNBC about Energy Opportunities.
Seven tables of people from business, government, and non-government agencies were mixed and matched and asked to spend an hour finding new ideas to reduce carbon emissions. It was quite cool and varied – but common to all the ideas was the foundation of devices that communicate with each other (m2m), ubiquitous broadband, and partnerships across public and private entities.
So while that event was about inspiration and possibilities, Estonia is about the experience. Estonia not only has the list of courageous qualities; it also has the technology. They recently expanded LTE so they have the best coverage (more than 95 percent) in Europe.
Horribly, the only place in Tallinn where there didn’t seem to be internet was my hotel room last night. Which explains why there was some crazy woman madly uploading video and sending e-mails from the hallway at 11 o’clock last night.
Brace yourselves. I must have been in Val-HALL-ah.

Written by Dodi Axelson

Dodi Axelson is head of internal communications for Ericsson Region Latin America and Caribbean. Based in Mexico City, she leads a team covering 53 countries and sharing news with employees ranging from company strategy to the latest telecom innovations. She has been asking the important questions ever since she started her journalism career in newsradio in Seattle, Washington.

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