Administrative and government delegations from around the world have taken Estonia’s e-governance as a role model. And Estonian companies supply international markets with digital solutions for IoT and industry 4.0 applications, for robotics, automation and mechatronic solutions, or act as contract manufacturers in these fields. For example, mechanical engineering and metal working have an export rate of 80 percent.
Estonia’s digitalization, starting in the Baltic state in the mid-90s with the „Tiigrihüppe“, the Tiger Leap, expanded into the education sector as well as other areas of the society. The digitalization is also shaping numerous industries, for example, the information communication technology (ICT), mechanical engineering and metal working as well as the electronics industry.
„Implementing digital solutions generates efficiency“, explains Urmo Sisask, CEO at HY-Tech Comp near Tallinn, a contract manufacturer with competence for highly complex applications in electronics, mechanics, and electromechanics. This includes circuit cards and control modules, laser cutting, powder coating, and spot welding as well as mechanical assembly. “We use the latest robot technology in our manufacturing processes and have developed the production into an automated and digitalized realtime factory.”
e-Estonia – the most digitalized country in the world
Estonia, with 1.3 million inhabitants is considered the most digitalized country in the world, and the term “e-Estonia” stands for a highly interconnected society. With their e-identity, Estonians file their tax returns online, vote online, digitally renew their driver’s license, start a business, receive a prescription, and sign contracts among each other. Estonia has declared the access to the internet as a fundamental right.
Successful digitalization is not only the question of technological possibility, but also of enthusiasm for modern technology and the attitude and mentality to find new solutions. “Every 10th student in Estonia signs up for ICT”, says Triin Ploompuu, member of the board of the Federation of Estonian Engineering Industry.
This ensures a future-oriented approach. In the Ülemiste City business district alone, there are hundreds of start-ups and established IT companies with 6,000 employees in total. On the 36 ha large area of the business center and technology campus, there is also the e-Estonia Briefing Centre, the contact point for business delegations where Estonia’s digital development is presented.
Intergenerational and interdisciplinary connectivity
The foundation for the digital strength is already formed in school: Every educational institution has internet access, is equipped with computers and fiber-optic connection, and programming is often a mandatory subject. Children are playfully introduced to digital technologies as early as primary school: Calculating with a child-friendly learning robot, building of a Lego robot or safety on the internet are on the curriculum.
Estonia belongs to the countries with the highest level of education and is among the leading countries in mathematics, science and ICT. At the international PISA study, Estonian students regularly achieve leading ranks in the international PISA studies.
The Mektory, the innovation and business center at Tallinn University of Technology, for example, bridges the gap between economy, science, and education. On various levels, it addresses companies, start-ups, students and pupils to scientifically accompanied use laboratories for the development of their ideas as well as to discover the possibility of the digitalization in programming workshops. The university is also a partner of the IMECC (Innovative Manufacturing Engineering Systems Competence Center), a high-tech consortium consisting of science and economy which practices Research & Development in digital manufacturing, process automation or mechatronics. The STACC (Software Technology and Applications Competence Center), a similar network like IMECC, engages in applied research on data science and machine learning.
„These are only a few aspects of how digitalization is spreading through society and economy as a chance”, says Triin Ploompuu. Urmo Sisask adds: “Our customers benefit from the innovative approach to problem-solving and the great adaptability of Estonians. New thoughts and ideas are boldly pursued and nobody is trapped in dogmatic thinking.”
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