Estonia calls for tech innovators to collaborate on new government services

By on 14/09/2021 | Updated on 14/09/2021
Estonia’s CIO acknowledges that start-ups and entrepreneurs often hit barriers when trying to partner with public sector organisations. Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi via Unsplash

The Estonian government is granting tech-driven organisations and entrepreneurs access to its technological resources on the proviso that it can have free use of any resulting tools and services.

It says it is looking to collaborate with start-ups, big business, governments, researchers, and entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world via its Digital Testbed Framework. Participants will be able to try out new ideas and build prototypes of products designed to improve public services. There will be no financial obligation on either side.

Siim Sikkut, chief information officer (CIO) for Estonia, said: “The problem many start-ups face today is that the environment for cooperation the public sector is built on is old, outdated and inflexible and this makes integration and collaboration difficult.”

Inviting “anyone and everyone” to collaborate, he said the government wants to partner with innovative people in a variety of sectors. “Whether you’re a coder wanting help to improve the digital services of Estonia, or an entrepreneur looking to test your solution with one of the most digitally advanced nations in the world, we’d love to connect with you.”

Participants will have the opportunity to test their new products against Estonian government technology and get free proof of concept prior to commercial roll-out. Any new solutions will then become part of the government’s publicly available source-code repository.

“[The framework] is fast and simple to use and there is no lengthy sales or approval process or unnecessary red tape,” the Digital Testbed Framework fact-sheet says. “We’ll provide… our constructive feedback on your idea and if our collaboration is a success, we’ll shout your name from the rooftops”.

Estonia is one of the most digitally advanced nations in the world with 99% of its public services accessible online. The Digital Testbed Framework has been instrumental in the country’s internal digital development, the government says, and has been used to develop national projects such as the TEXTA Toolkit (which uses AI to predict whether comments should or shouldn’t be published in public forums) and HOIA – the country’s official COVID-19 exposure notification app.  

The framework has also been used by the Estonian parliament and the Ministry of Education and Research, and has helped the Police and Border Guard Board detect domestic violence cases.

The Estonian government hopes this new international collaborative model will encourage further innovative ideas for its public services. Estonian minister of entrepreneurship and IT, Andres Sutt, said: “In order to continue innovating and building our digital government, we believe in open partnerships and cooperation with the private sector. That’s why the Digital Testbed Framework was born.”

Interested parties are invited to submit their ideas by 10 October 2021.

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.

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