Estonia is widely regarded as the most digitally-advanced country in the world. Ninety nine per cent of government services are online and access to the internet is a basic human right that is enshrined in their constitution. Estonia’s ambassador to India, Katrin Kivi, told H Khogen Singh that her country can help India’s digital push.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a strong advocate of digital technologies. In what areas can the two countries cooperate?
There is a lot we can do together. We have a very advanced e-governance system, we have been voting online since 2005 and we are the world leaders in cyber security. Almost all public services are online, be it filing taxes, registering child birth or renewing driving licences.
Several of our private sector companies work on cyber security, e-governance, artificial intelligence, financial and health technologies. Some of them have already come to India and work here with their Indian partners. We also offer blockchain technology to prevent data leaks.We are happy that an increasing number of Estonian companies are taking keen interest in India and we aim to keep up the interest.
What is the status of the MoUs signed between the two countries in 2019?
We signed two MoUs during Indian vice president M Venkaiah Naidu’s visit to Estonia and these will provide the building block. One was on e-governance and emerging digital technologies and the second on cyber security. The second one has a roadmap and officials are exchanging views on a regular basis, there is no obstacle.
What about trade and business?
The visit by the Indian vice president put Estonia in focus and we have seen increasing interest in our region. Currently there are more than 3,000 Indian e-residents in Estonia. Being an e-resident is almost like being a citizen, they have digital residency in Estonia without even having to be in Estonia.
It helps in conducting business, Mukesh Ambani is an e-resident. He has set up a Jio research centre in our country with an Estonian CEO. TCS is also enlarging its presence. We have several great examples of Indian e-residents establishing companies in Estonia such as Velmenni, a startup.
For established founders and startups we also have a special visa programme and Estonia was a pioneer in establishing the digital nomad visa programme. But unfortunately the Covid-19 pandemic has not allowed us to take full advantage of them.
India is currently on a vaccine diplomacy drive, is Estonia receiving Indian vaccines?
Estonia is part of the European Union and the European Medicines Agency has approved the Oxford-Astra Zeneca, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
We are getting vaccines through this programme. But as the world’s largest pharmaceutical producer, perhaps Indian vaccines will also be available in Europe in the future. We are now working with the World Health Organisation on vaccine passports.
Tell us about vaccine passports.
Estonia is supporting the world during the pandemic with its smart digital solutions in education and health. We have partnered with the WHO and Estonian entrepreneurs are working to develop a globally acceptable digital immunization certificate, or vaccine passports.
An Estonian company Guardtime is working on it to make it smart phone compatible. You have to show the vaccine certificate during international travel. Some issues about worldwide acceptance of these certificates are being resolved.