“Automation is the way how we increase effectiveness at Invest Estonia,” Joonas Vänto, Director at Invest Estonia commented on the investment promotion agency being listed in IRCAI (International Research Centre on Artificial Intelligence Under the Auspices of UNESCO) artificial intelligence top. “We use modern technology like natural language processing and machine learning to deliver measurable results. At the same time, by harnessing the power of automation, our team can dedicate more time to delivering a truly personal and high-quality experience.”
ComparEST – a truly unique comparison tool
The latest addition to Invest Estonia’s toolset, ComparEST is an online tool that enables potential foreign investors to compare Estonia with other countries based on a range of factors, such as the business environment, labour market, and taxation.
“It has been a great place to experiment, implementing machine learning, combining various data sources, results of academic research and our investment advisors’ know-how, into a product that we truly hope has the ability to provide an honest and data-backed insight into how Estonia compares to competitors,” Invest Estonia’s CTO Andero Kaha said. “We urge you to try the tool out for yourself and find out.”
In April 2023, the novel tool was shortlisted in the Modern and Future-proof Policymaking Initiative of the Year award by Emerging Europe for Invest Estonia’s innovative approach to facilitating foreign direct investments. The final vote will be open until May 7th, 2023.
Chatbot Suve – a crisis-tested tool in heavy business use
Another client-facing solution utilizing AI is Suve, the chatbot that, during the COVID-19 emergency situation, provided information on the websites of the government, several ministries, and other public and private institutions. Suve, express-created at a hackathon organized to beat the crisis using tech, instantly gained a lot of international attention, including headlines in publications, such as Forbes, Financial Times and others.
As the health crisis ended, she found her ‘peace-time’ job on Invest Estonia’s and Work in Estonia’s websites, providing information about business and working opportunities in Estonia. Last year, Suve was assigned some crisis duties again besides her everyday ones, as Russia attacked Ukraine. It has since then been one of Suve’s obligations to provide refugees from Ukraine with relevant information on job opportunities, as well as Ukrainian business leaders on ensuring possibilities for business continuance in or in cooperation with Estonia.
“Suve is a tool born and tested at challenging times,” Kata Varblane, the Head of Invest Estonia’s Sales Support team who was also a part of Suve’s original hackathon team, commented. “Since then, we have seen that she has the potential to quickly, automatically and accurately identify and solve some of the information needs of our customers. She is also a great example of cooperation within Invest Estonia’s parent organization, the Enterprise Estonia. As we share interactions data and train Suve in cooperation with Work in Estonia, Suve is smarter than a bot with just business or labour-market know-how would be. Our Agency’s strategy is to be always one step ahead – we are not afraid to pilot with novel technologies. To develop our services for investors we test, fail, learn – and this is a never-ending challenge.”
e-Consulting – Eia, the robot with a name from a Christmas fairy tale, handling requests
As Estonia’s favourable business environment attracts a lot of interest from Estonia and abroad, the agency’s website visits have been growing at a rate that would be more suitable for a startup, almost doubling each year since 2017, when digitalization was declared as one of the key components of the agency’s business strategy. This also meant that an effective way to handle customer enquiries was needed.
“The first steps to create Eia, the electronic investment advisor, were taken five years ago, as it became apparent that our customer support and sales teams would become overwhelmed soon if we didn’t provide them with quick and easy-to-use tools,” CTO Andero Kaha commented. “The effect of just time savings is thousands of hours of valuable working time. Besides that, Eia never sleeps, takes sick leave or has a vacation as we, humans, tend to do.”
Eia, named after a famous film character in an Estonian Christmas movie, can create elaborate investment offers, detailing where, how and why to invest in Estonia; with some human assistance assign leads to advisors; and interact with the organization’s sales force automation system.
Emma – flexible and effective marketing assistant
“Marketing in the digital age needs on the one hand experimentation and on the other hand automation,” Ave Kütt, the Digital Marketing Specialist at Invest Estonia said. “This is why Emma, our multimedia assistant, is a good match for the job. It is a question of mindset – if an organization values the time of its employees and automates their work in a way that is both flexible and effective, this means that the organization is ready for the future. In digital marketing, AI has the possibility to contribute to both, flexibility and effectiveness. And furthermore, AI helps to avoid burnout by allowing the marketers to stay playful and keep experimenting.”
Emma monitors content from various platforms writing or talking about business in Estonia to the working table of the investment promotion agency’s employees, highlighting the stories that may prove important in the sales process.
Her other role is to help the content posted by content creators on the IPA’s website to reach social media followers in a well-structured, standardized and trackable way. While AI is already now used in textual social media content creation, this is a field where more rapid changes in content type to be created will soon follow.
“This is just the beginning”
“Investment promotion has been traditionally seen as quite a conservative field, but I can assure you, we are here to change that. What you see now is just the beginning,” Director Joonas Vänto said. “The future for artificial intelligence in investment promotion is bright.”
The investment promotion agency’s CTO Andero Kaha agrees. “Of course, talking about technology use in investment promotion, we need to remember that this is just the beginning. Our agency’s draft digital strategy foresees the use of – and experimental projects are already being run – in fields, such as text-to-speech, text-to-video, augmented reality, virtual reality,” Kaha added. “The main criteria for the choice of technology, as always, is efficiency and the ability of the solutions to bring results. As our experience and research show, there is much more than just time savings to what automation and the use of AI have to offer in investment promotion. Be ready for some positive surprises!”
In 2020, the Estonian Investment Agency was awarded by the United Nations as the world’s top investment agency for readiness, innovation, and excellence in supporting the needs of investors during the COVID-19 crisis. For three years in a row (2020-2022), it has been named the best investment promotion agency in the region by Emerging Europe.
Other Estonian projects in IRCAI’s list include Bürokratt (see separate article), a concept of how state could operate in the age of artificial intelligence and Bitskout (see separate article), a building platform that lets anyone use the power of AI.
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