Kersti Kaljulaid: cooperation on digital transformation is crucial


The 5th e-Governance Conference “Same Goals, Different Roadmaps” promoted cooperation on digital transformation in order to spread innovation and reshape daily governance, and through that, people’s lives.

Mrs Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia, pointed out that digital ID is the key to digital transformation. “Should one region globally be able to establish a common digital ID and common service backbone for a high number of countries, they would see economic interlinks developing at a speed never been seen before,” said the President. “Cooperation on digital transformation is crucial for success.”

Referring to her own experience, using a digital signature provides the opportunity to manage one’s daily tasks remotely and results in less need for travel. This in turn helps to lower greenhouse gas emissions and to reduce the environmental footprint caused by travelling.

In her speech, she also pointed out that the local culture should be considered when determining how digital technologies can help achieve sustainable development goals, because countries vary in their legislative and institutional setups. In creating e-governments, she said, the culture of running the state must prevail, not the functionalities of software. “Therefore, we also need to consider local culture when we want to digitise our services and create tailor-made solutions,” said Mrs Kaljulaid.

According to the Estonian President, learning to cooperate while ensuring the integrity of national digital roadmaps is a true challenge. “The European Union can serve as a great lesson from the last decade of attempts on harmonizing the digital policies and practices.” The president’s full speech is available here.


Mr Fabrizio Hochschild, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, admitted that global cooperation is not currently sufficiently widespread, with new threats emerging and contentious topics being discussed such as privacy in the digital age.

“The need for international cooperation is evident, and much more necessary than before, because all models involve multiple stakeholders, governments cannot do it alone by themselves, and tech evolves faster than policy-making,” said Mr Hochschild.

He also welcomed the renewed cooperation with Estonia and the e-Governance Academy in supporting effective, efficient and transparent digital public service development globally and to raise awareness within the UN of the digital domain. “First, the UN needs to increase the level of digital understanding internally. Afterwards, we can help member states build capacities nationally and at a regional level. Finally, threats from the cyber domain must also be better understood,” said Mr Hochschild.

Mr Andrus Ansip, European Commission Vice-President, highlighted the need for collaboration between countries and regions, and shared the experience of developing the digital single market in the EU. “The cost of the barriers in digital market was more than 415 billion euros per year in the European Union, and roaming fees differed per country. Yet, the EU is moving ahead with the Digital Single Market and is ready to share its experience with the world,” said Mr Andrus Ansip.

Speaking at the conference, Mr Siim Sikkut, CIO of Estonia, encouraged governments to experiment and to take risks. He referenced Estonia’s e-residency programme as an example of experimentation.

Mr Sikkut explained that it is a never-ending cycle to try to build things in the most secure way possible, because risk will always be there, and it is impossible to be 100% un-hackable, but the benefits of being digital are priceless. “Transformation means that change must be managed, and taking risks is the way forward,” said Mr Sikkut.

“I’m a strong believer that the wheel doesn’t have to be reinvented, and that we have a lot to learn from each other. Information should be shared, policies should be reused and adapted. Estonia is open to both teaching and learning from others,” he said.

The 5thAnnual International e-Governance Conference, held on 21–22 May in Tallinn, Estonia, focused on digital transformation roadmaps and presented case studies from Africa, Eastern Partnership as well as EU countries and beyond. In total, 450 participants representing 110 countries attended the conference.

The conference was organised by the e-Governance Academy in cooperation with the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, VFS Global and the City of Tallinn.