Estonia and Ukraine to jointly develop e-governance

Estonia and Ukraine are to start a new type of collaboration between the countries’ digital enterprises and the public sector to jointly develop e-governance.

A series of events, called the Digital Society Sandbox, initiated by the Estonian president, Kersti Kaljulaid and her Ukrainian colleague, Volodymyr Zelensky, on 26 November kicked off in Tallinn.

“The initiative from Estonia and Ukraine to start a Digital Society Sandbox is most valuable for helping us jointly understand what it means for public services to be digital,” Kaljulaid said in a statement. “Many countries have developed public e-services, but opening them up to the private sector is unheard of. Now, we have two states with the same understanding of the concept. Estonia has a global market and reputation but lacks the force to meet a large demand; Ukraine has the necessary workforce and great ideas. Additionally, Ukraine can build its e-state using technology that is 15 years ahead of what we started out with in Estonia.”

Ukraine is helping improve its entrepreneurial climate

“Adopting e-services not only frees people from unnecessary bureaucracy, it also helps fight corruption and make the state more reliable. Our new government highly values this project,” Zelensky added. “We have been working double speed the past few months and within this time, we have passed 82 new acts helping improve the entrepreneurial climate in Ukraine and combat corruption. Estonia has a similar experience from the 1990s and Mart Laar’s government. Radical changes in Ukraine do require radical steps forward – fighting corruption, promoting e-health and digitalising the state.”

In the beginning stages, cooperative projects run for three years, during which regular hackathons and discussion forums will be held. The council that initiated the project includes representatives from both Estonia and Ukraine. The objective is to use direct, creative and efficient cooperation to build a network comprising start-up ecosystems, IT entrepreneurs, heads of state and presidents´ advisory councils.

The Digital Society Sandbox kicked off on 26 November at Lift99 co-working hub in Tallinn.

The events will be held alternately in Ukraine and Estonia, and both devoted experts and enterprises are welcome to participate. Both Estonia and Ukraine have previously benefited from e-governance hackathons, and this serves as an antecedent for creating a joint development hub. Additionally, the two digital societies can potentially nudge each other to move forward and find new solutions, the Estonian president’s office said.

New technology shapes processes in the public sector

The states’ cooperation is mostly focused on improving mobile device and digital skills to make the e-state available everywhere and to everyone in Ukraine. “Servicing people via mobile phones also requires that significant changes be made to existing services, since a smartphone screen is much more demanding in terms of user experience compared to other channels. At the same time, new technology shapes processes in the public sector so that people have access to better, faster and more precise services,” the president’s office noted.

The memorandum of cooperation, signed by the digital development ministers of Ukraine and Estonia, creates a great framework for innovation as well as for taking practical steps towards improvement. The first example of this is the Digital Society Sandbox initiative.

Cover: The Estonian president, Kersti Kaljulaid and her Ukrainian colleague, Volodymyr Zelensky, at Lift99 co-working hub in Tallinn, where the Digital Society Sandbox kicked off on 26 November. Photos by Mattias Tammet (Estonian President’s Office).

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