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Viljar Lubi: Estonia leads the world. Yes, it is possible!

The success of Estonia in the IT field and the reputation of the e-government have given us a unique opportunity to be a leader in this crisis. Hackathons could give rise to tens of millions of extra euros to our exports and the GDP, writes Viljar Lubi, Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.

Three billion people in the world are in isolation. Three billion people are being forced to completely change their way of life and look for solutions in this difficult situation that will help them survive the crisis in the best possible way. And now there is a small group of people who have decided that enough is enough. These are the people who are ready to roll up their sleeves and start working on shaping a new normalcy and a future in order to avoid the inconveniences we are facing today.

Thus, on 13 to 15 March, online brainstorming sessions, or in other words, a hackathon took place, bringing together 1,300 people from more than 20 countries and 15 time zones. Of the ideas developed in 48 hours, more than 8 are working solutions that have a significant impact on our daily lives. Just a few hours after the hackathon, we realised that we had gained international attention, growing first into a pan-European movement and soon into a global community.

A total of 53 countries, including India, Brazil, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Turkey, France, Kosovo, Morocco, Australia, Georgia, Nigeria, Madagascar and so on, also held a hackathon. Over the weekend, when the Global Hack’s online brainstorming sessions took place, the number of participating countries rose to 98.

The results of the hackathons are impressive – the portfolio includes more than 7,000 ideas with international potential, more than 100,000 participants, cooperation with the European Commission, the United Nations and many other major partners, and, of course, international media attention. All of these aspects brought the Global Hack movement to an audience of several hundred million, touching the future lives of many, both directly and indirectly. The result is a list of ideas that have the potential to change and reshape the current socio-economic situation.

Estonia in a leading position

Estonia is a model country for managing processes in times of a crisis. The Global Hack brought together the most brilliant minds from around the world, the public and private sectors joining forces to tackle the crisis together. Our success story has received much widespread coverage in international media such as Voice of America, CNN, Forbes and the Financial Times. All this could only happen with the support of a very strong team, supporters and partners.

Why did the Global Hack originate from Estonia? Our success in the IT field, and the possibilities of the e-government play a role here. These opportunities have not disappeared in today’s situation. After all, we have created the e-government and other digital solutions so that it does not matter where we are right now. At home, at the moment. It is important to remember that our success so far in developing the e-government is based on close cooperation between the private and public sector.

In the current crisis situation, our e-government and other digital solutions receive a lot of international advertising. This is largely due to the hackathon we are organising.

The same is true of the hackathons that are now being held around the world. This cooperation (Accelerate Estonia being one of its main platforms) is a great opportunity for Estonia in similar situations that require urgent efficiency. We just have to take advantage of it.

Restrictions on movement have turned many regular activities upside down. The economy is not operating at full capacity, which is understandable given the situation. However, are there any quick practical solutions to alleviate our current living conditions and economic situation?

Recovering the lost added value

Let me give you a simplified example using an approximate calculation: let us say that 90% of our IT people are currently at home (more than 22,000 people employed in the sector) and 50% of them have school-aged children. Everyone has heard about the everyday difficulties that parents encounter with home school when they spend hours together with their children.

Let us assume that helping children reduces the productivity of IT specialists that are parents by 25% compared to the usual (the usual added value is about 4,100 euros per month per employee). This means that in the IT sector alone, we are losing 12 million euros from the GDP every month due to declining productivity. Solutions to such seemingly simple problems must be found, including through hackathons.

Developing the idea further, we should say that the export of Estonian ICT services last year was about 1 billion euros, almost 1.5 billion euros together with goods. In the current crisis situation, our e-government and other digital solutions receive a lot of international advertising. This is largely due to the hackathon we are organising. If it helps to increase our ICT exports by 5% next year, it will result in an additional 50 million euros, and if the gain is 3%, then 30 million euros.

The approximate ratio of taxes to exports is 0.36, i.e. the increased export results in a tax increase of 18 or 11 million euros. These are the numbers from the government’s point of view. Accelerate Estonia together with e-Estonia Briefing Centre are already establishing the long-term possibilities.

So, let’s start hacking then!


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