We thank Mr. Deed very much. Indrek Onnik Director of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication in the Government of the Republic of Estonia, for having agreed to grant us this interview despite his busy agenda. Mr. Indrek Onnik recently gave a conference at AITEX in Rabat on his country’s leading experience in digital transformation.
1- What do you think are the factors contributing to a good digital transformation?
There are several important aspects to keep in mind when moving from an analog setup of a state to a digital one. First and foremost, it is important to understand that it is not as much about technology as it is about the shift in mindset. The understanding that it is not necessarily about doing different things, rather than doing the same things differently. It is vital to have strong and persistent support from the political leaders as well as work together with the private sector. It is perfectly fine for the government to out-source certain services or development as quite often the expertise lies in the private sector.
Additionally, it is beneficial to move forward step by step with small projects that can be easily delivered. This means that if something goes sideways, the risks have not been as severe as with a large project and it is easier to move forward with an improved solution. Therefore, delivery is key. Secondly, it is important to use well established platforms that will make implementation of additional solutions easier and have a spillover effect for the rest of the
2- Exactly what role did your department play in the success of the digital transformation?
The State Information Systems department at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications coordinates the development of the state information system, by creating relevant strategies and action plans and legal documents that are required for IT development. Furthermore, the department has the role of distributing allocating finances from the EU related to ICT development. In a nutshell, it is the department that oversees and facilitates the ICT development in Estonia and with other partners stands as the core of digital transformation.
3- Can you briefly tell us about your department’s missions?
Our mission is to be the pathfinder in implementation of ICT in Estonia and facilitate as well as coordinate the overall digital development. We aim to improve the competitiveness of the economy, improve the welfare of people and contribute to more effective governance.
4- Cyber security is an important issue for all countries when it comes to digital. How is Estonia operating to strengthen its cyber security?
The cyber defence of information systems will help to ensure the trust of people in the information society’s ICT solutions. In cyber space, malicious people are not held back by state borders. Therefore, cross-cutting and cross-border co-operation will be required in cyber space to anticipate possible threats and respond appropriately. Just like on land, sea and in the air, we need international co-operation partners to protect our country and citizens in the cyber space, both at the level of ICT specialists, legislation, national defence and diplomats.
Cyber environment and the opportunity to manage within the environment safely are as important as secure physical environment for the purposes of the development of a country and its economy. In 2009, the Cyber Security Council was established at the Security Committee of the Government of the Republic. The task of the Council is to contribute to smooth co-operation between various institutions and conduct surveillance over the implementation of the goals of the Cyber Security Strategy. The Council is chaired by the Secretary General of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.
5- What do you think are the major factors in the success of digital transformation
There are several factors that contribute to the success of digital transformation. Over the years as a pathfinder in implementation ICT, Estonia has laid its development on three core aspects – having a strong support from the leadership; including private sector partners to the development; and moving forward step by step by keeping the solutions simple and not overly complicated.
The main idea has been to not to move forward with huge – one size fits all – type of solutions, rather than working towards the bigger goals by guaranteeing fast delivery and execution of existing plans and projects. It is also vital to learn from one’s mistakes and by keeping the solutions and projects small, the risks are managed to keep to the minimum. Lastly, it is also important to have transparency in everything that you do, as this keeps better oversight on what has been done as well as enables anyone to have trust towards the projects executed. Without trust, it would be near impossible to go through digital transformation at a scale that is necessary today.