Tallinn Digital Summit calls out for global ecosystem for trusted connectivity

Each year the Tallinn Digital Summit (TDS) brings the newest in cutting edge human centered digital policy and has become a successful platform for launching new topics on the global arena.

Based on the practical experience gained in Estonia and that of likeminded friends, we seek to push the dialogue, partnerships and practical projects towards a more transparent, secure, and accountable future based on values.

This year the march goes on. The spotlight is on the topic of transparent and ethical financing of global infrastructure projects. Modern infrastructure, traditionally seen as only brick and mortar type high-cost investments, always carries a digital component that serves the purpose of enabling the piece of road, cable, or a house to be maintained and mainly used sustainably by the end user. The digital component in infrastructure is the main driver in the change of business models, which are significantly upgrading the output of any piece of concrete or connection, thus yielding greater return on investment.

Public digital services can be considered a critical part of modern infrastructure – a utility that should be considered a digital public good to enable fair private sector innovation. Fair competition in the private sector can be fostered though strong and transparent partnerships, which can be achieved through new forms of governance and cross-border multilateral agreements.

A big part of the future will be based on and delivered by good quality data, which currently is not used to its full potential. This is especially true between governments and in multilateral settings. Data needs to flow freely across country borders in a way that preserves privacy and is free of hassle. The pandemic has demonstrated the need and the value the free flow of data can provide to the global community, but also pointed out several shortcomings, for example, a lack of trust and agreements that are necessary to make the ground more fertile for new ideas and services.

Building these foundational digital building blocks is quite often deployed as a one-time investment. Everyday maintenance, regular upgrades and patches, and routine cyber certification audits are often left out of flashy keynotes and thus neglected by top political decision makers. But the sustainable delivery of these process changes on a regular basis and, in fact, constitutes what digital transformation actually is. More emphasis, attention and funding are also needed to keep these systems safe, private and secure.

Most digitally experienced and mature governments around the world have recognised that this transformation is more about a change in mindsets, attitudes and delivering a cultural shift across the public sector, rather than technological gadgetry. One effective tool that has been able to deliver this cultural change is experimenting and creating ecosystems of innovation around the experiments. Often these experiments find themselves on legal borderlines. They need a more favourable legal framework in order to deliver new business models and value to the public. These legal testbeds and sandboxes are thriving practical examples and communities that can demonstrate many novel perspectives and are an infinite point of learning.

Tallinn Digital Summit 2021 calls out for a global ecosystem for trusted connectivity and presents many examples and use cases to show how it can be delivered across the globe. Examples and discussions from different angles, scales and cultural context will be the basis for building partnerships and collaboration for all of the participants of the summit.

Marten Kaevats
National Digital Advisor, Government Office of Estonia