Watch: Taavi Kotka on transforming digital government in Europe


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One of Europe’s leading practitioners on digital government has schooled the Department of Communications and Arts on world-leading platforms for data management and citizen engagement.

Taavi Kotka, the Estonian government’s chief information officer, offered insight into transforming digital services in his nation and beyond. Kotka was in Australia to speak at an executive development program on public leadership in the digital era, run by IBM and The Mandarin in Canberra.

In his presentation, Kotka put forward six changes in service delivery:

  • Trust your engineers. Politics might guide where to build your bridge. But engineers know how to build the best bridge.
  • Everyone needs digital ID. A unique digital identifier for each person is the bedrock for all information sharing and service delivery. EU courts recognise digitally signed documents just as they recognise physically signed documents.
  • Everyone needs fast internet. Most service experiences should be shorter than the time to boil an egg. Even a complex task, like starting a company, can be completed in 18 minutes. Slow internet is not an option.
  • Everything needs to be connected. Estonia now has a ‘once only’ policy for information gathering. No citizen should have to provide a piece of information to the government more than once.
  • A key enabler is trust. Every Estonian can check what data is held about them and what is has been used for. Inappropriate uses of data are punished by severe penalties. What matters is control of data, not confidentiality.
  • No legacy systems. In the interests of constant improvement, no system can be older than 13 years old. Even though Estonian’s e-health system is world leading. It is being replaced because it was introduced in 2004, when mobile devices were rare.

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