AWV-Interview mit Siim Sikkut, Digital Policy Adviser der estnischen Regierung

Mr. Sikkut, thank you very much for the opportunity to meet you, and for your readiness to give us some insight in the way Estonia deals with digitalisation and E-government. Please tell us: How would you define your current position – are you part of the government or are you an external adviser?

We are here in a government office. I guess „Staatskanzlei“ would be something like the direct translation. But we are in fact a coordination unit. I work for the prime minister, but I am no politician myself. I am a civil servant and my job is to coordinate digital policy making across the government.

For all the ministries?

Yes. And I work very much in tandem with our government CIO. The CIO is really in charge of the digital government and of the policy initiatives and regulation. We consider digital government and digital policy to be a horizontal issue; all the departments have to do their share. That is why we basically steer and also help from the government office level. The CIO and I both are there to solve problems, and we try to kickstart bigger initiatives.

Do you have a strategy which is designed with the cabinet or the prime minister and which is realised step by step or do you collect best practices from all over the world and adapt them for Estonia?

Well, I guess it goes both ways. We do operate in a seven years digital framework or program, partly because we get quite a bit of EU-funding for IT.

Public funding only, or private funding too?

Public, just purely public; European and domestic funds. But we talk a lot to the private sector to start matching initiatives, for example regarding digital skills. So in the end we work in the same initiative. We set a direction, but although we do have a framework, we are very open to new ideas and bring them in, so we are not fixed completely into a strategy.

Do you try to learn from other countries at the same time, trying not to reinvent the wheel?

Yes, absolutely! We are very, very keen about trying to take things over that work somewhere else. Our digital ID we copied from Finland, who again copied it from Sweden… So, we are very happy to adapt something that works abroad. It does not even necessarily have to be a solution like a code or a technology but it can also be a concept or knowhow. We are now trying to build mandatory e-Invoices based on a Danish model. So we try to really be open, we talk to other governments around the world, not just Europe, but the other „Digital 5“, too.

But if I look at the biggest things we are doing at the moment like e-Residency, online voting or data embassies, then they are more home-built. Again, they might not be really unique to the world – you can probably always find someone who has proposed something like that somewhere else.

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Foto: ©, Martin Dremljuga