Estonian people boast that the digitalization of their country supposes a saving of 2% of yearly PIL in salaries and costs. And they repeatedly tell us that, if they built a digital society, anyone could do the same. As a matter of fact, this was the message they sent out during the latest Council Presidency of European Union. Innovation cannot be exclusive property of the private sector, Governments cannot fall behind. This is not about money or even a matter of dimensions. You only need a political will.
On 27 April 2007 Estonian removed a bronze statue from the centre of Tallin. The statue was built in 1947 to commemorate the soviet fallen soldiers during the Second World War and it symbolized a past of occupation, so it was taken to a military cemetery, despite the soviet warnings: as a matter of fact they repeated that the transfer would have had catastrophic consequences and so it was. A few days later Estonian citizens had no longer been able to access to Government web sites, to the most important newspapers of the world, to Universities or to banks. The country was the victim of a cyber attack (and later Kremlin denied its involvement in that fact). Linnar Vilk, who now is providing advice to Government in the sector of digital transformation from the e-Governance Academy, remembers a War Council with a great deal of water, citrus fruit and coffee, in which officers, university professors, doctoral students and employees of private companies had worked tirelessly. “Are all these people authorized by Security?” asked us the Ministre of Defence, looking out into the hall. “No, they are not, but they are competent to solve the problem. Please, let us work”. On the face of Vilk there is a smile. At that very moment, she tells us, many people understood that the world had changed. Government came out with dignity, things went back to normal and since then Estonian became a reference point in the field of computer security. In 2008 was launched the Excellence Centre of Securiy and Cooperation of NATO for Computer Security in Tallin and last year this Baltic country announced the creation of the first “Data Embassy” in Luxemburg. In short, if they have to deal with a new attack, they will have a security copy of the whole State safe and the country will be able to continue to function without interruption. According to Andre Krull, CEO of Nortal, a company that cooperated closely with Public Administration to develop, for example, the Census or the Tax Collection System, “that crisis and the successive ones helped us to mature. Ten years ago we opened every link/attachment we received by email but now all of us understand that we need to maintain a certain hygiene, when we are connecting to the network. That is what involves to live in a digital society”.
Birgy Lorenz shaker her head remembering their defeat: Estonian was fifth in the cyber Olimpic Games, that took place in Málaga last November. Technology did not failed, but presentation did. “It happens to us all the time: we Estonian always expand too much”. She is not going to make the same mistake. She runs with light steps across the buildings of the Pelgulinna Public School in Tallin, where she has been responsible of Information Technology (IT) for 17 years and she only stops when she is out of breath. “The number of students between 7 and 18 years old is 960 and the number of professors is 65. There is wifi in all buildings and although it is time to come to school you do not hear the bell: as a matter of fact students must be responsible and on time. We teach cyber security, robotics, programming, we have a drone lab, we use 3D printers and at the moment we are trying to obtain funding for virtual and augmented reality classes. Here we do non highlight digital skills, because they are already part of our daily life and they are not even the most important ones. Our strong points are arts, sport and technology.
She is a star player: in addition to her work in this Centre and to the direction of the team of “future cyber talents”, Lorenz teaches digital security at the Tallin University “My mission is to monitor that neither professors nor students use technology excessively. The arrival of blackboards made us teachers more creative. We are in competition with our students and we must hurt our brain to wake their interest”. For example, on the corridor floors of Pelgulinna School an hopscotch is drawn, so that students turn their phone off between classes and wish to play.
The country of Aegviidu is only 45 minutes train ride from Tallin Central Station. Leaving the capital, where there are 450.000 people, means that after a few minutes you find yourself in a solitary landscape: Estonian has the size of Netherlands…..(END THIRD PART)