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Minister Reinsalu sõnavõtt aukonsulite veebikonverentsil „Digital Estonia Going Global“

5. Juuni 2020 - 17:07

Dear Honorary Consuls, dear colleagues, good afternoon! Tere tulemast, sõbrad üle kogu maailma!
For those of you who do not speak Estonian yet – my last sentence meant „welcome to our friends from all corners of the world!” It is indeed a great pleasure and honour to greet you all from Tallinn and thank you very much for joining us today!

As you see from the format of today’s meeting, the world has changed this year and will probably not be the same ever again. Estonia, as a digitally advanced country, has had an advantage in dealing with the crisis – we were digital before and have become even more digital during the recent months. It has not been easy to adapt to the new situation, especially considering Estonia’s current important role in the international community – in May, Estonia was holding the Presidency of the United Nations Security Council. As it has happened before, our small size and limited resources motivated us to be innovative – Estonia was the first country in the history of the United Nations to organise virtual meetings for discussing and deciding on globally crucial issues. Actually, I presided the UN Security Council virtual meeting from this very room.

Today, we have invited to this virtual meeting room our good friends and Estonia’s representatives from across the globe. Our Honorary Consuls are at the forefront of Estonian diplomacy and this is particularly obvious during the times of crisis. During the last months, you have all experienced increased workload due to increased number of consular cases, requests to help us in finding personal protective equipment and representing the interests of Estonian companies suffering from the crisis or trying to find new markets for their products that could help other countries during the crisis. On behalf of my colleagues and myself, I would like to say you a big and warm thank you! I really appreciate the help you provided and continue to provide to Estonia during these difficult times, especially taking into account that at the same time you had to deal with your personal problems caused by the crisis.

In May this year took place another significant event influencing the course of Estonia’s foreign policy – Estonian parliament, the Riigikogu, discussed the Foreign Policy Development Programme 2030, which is the underlying document determining the course of our foreign policy for the next decade. In addition to the political objectives related to guaranteeing Estonia’s security and position in the world, this strategy document sets priorities in the field of economy, namely promoting our economic interests, improving our visibility, and enhancing Estonia’s international image as a business partner, investment and tourism destination. In order to achieve these targets we look for effective and more active involvement of our honorary consuls and the Estonian community abroad.

We see our Honorary Consuls as active members of their local business community with a broad spectrum of contacts. You are Estonia’s valuable representatives introducing Estonia´s business and investment opportunities, helping to find business partners and facilitating contacts with local authorities.

The current crisis has already emphasised the role of our Honorary Consuls in achieving our economic objectives. I hope that you are ready to continue helping our companies in the same very efficient way that you have already done during the past months. On our behalf, we provide you tools making representing our business interests smooth and efficient. Later, our Business Diplomacy Division will discuss what we have done to help you and how you could help the Estonian economy. Together we can contribute to Estonia’s economy overcoming the crisis and I am sure that Estonia comes out of this crisis even stronger than before.

In fact, the crisis has already emphasized Estonia’s strength as an experienced digital society especially in the fields of governance, e-health and e-education. In the situation where practically the whole society is forced into self-isolation, the well-being of people depends largely on digital infrastructure. Estonian e-governance system, backed by secure data exchange layer X-road, guaranteed that the state continues to function and public services are not interrupted even during the crisis.

The key element of Estonian digital success has been the collaboration between private and public sector in finding innovative solutions to difficult problems. This cooperation continued perfectly during the crisis. On the day that government declared the state of emergency, a public-private initiative emerged to organize the very first online crisis hackathon “Hack the Crisis”. It turned out being so successful, that Estonian team supervised more than 50 nations to help them organize their own online crisis hackathons. Many of you helped to spread the word about the hackathons as well and we are very thankful to your contribution.

Another aspect that Estonia was well-prepared for crisis was our advanced e-health infrastructure. In situation where human contact had to be brought to minimum, consequently the doctor visits were reduced. Regardless of these difficulties, patients still received high quality medical help thanks to digital prescriptions, online sick leave possibility in national health portal and multiple telemedicine solutions. Some of these solutions have been helpful in other countries as well, for example telemedicine platform Viveo Health which made their service free for all the doctors around the world or CoNurse voice-guided tool for nurses which will be soon used in Ukrainian and Kenyan hospitals, helping to improve the quality of healthcare and reduce avoidable errors.

The current crisis has hit children especially hard because of the schools closing. In many countries, the pandemic completely cut children’s access to education. Transition to online home-schooling was easier in Estonia because already for years most of our schools and kindergartens use edTech solutions like eKool, Eliis and Opik on a daily basis. Knowing that e-schooling is not that smooth elsewhere, several Estonian edTech startups came together and offered their service for free globally until the end of the crisis. All the Scandinavian and Baltic countries eventually joined with this initiative and offered their solutions free as well. As an Education Nation, Estonia has a lot to offer in helping to digitalize schools also in other countries.

The crisis like this forces everybody to adapt quickly and learn how to turn challenges into opportunities. We have seen in these last months that Estonia has many innovative digital solutions from which the whole world could benefit. Our Business Diplomacy Division will continue to share the information about these innovative solutions with you and we would kindly like to ask for your help in finding opportunities for them in your countries.

Today’s programme continues with  presentations about Estonian digital solutions that are unique in world and could be interesting for your home countries. We will also hear presentations from some of your colleagues sharing their experience in promoting Estonia and our businesses.  I hope you will get some new ideas and see that helping Estonian companies is actually fun and rewarding.

Last but not least, I am still hopeful that our Honorary Consul Conference will take place next summer in Estonia. I hope to meet you all there and give you a warm handshake, this time not virtual but a real one. Once again, thank you for your continuing efforts in representing and helping Estonia, its people and companies. I wish you and your families good health and a wonderful summer.

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