Anita Krohn Traaseth keynote
Norway and Estonia – #digital #powercouple
Oslo Innovation Week, eEstonia day on September 27th at Oslo Opera.
Welcome and welcome back to Oslo Innovation Week and to the topic of digital power coupling between Norway and Estonia! We are practical examples of how size is not necessarily the most important of willing and adaptable to change. It’s about adapting new technology and having knowledge and people who are really ready to change and this is in common both for Estonia and for Norway.
Digitalization brings us much closer to each other as people and also as countries, it loses borders, gives new opportunities for cooperation and innovation. There are also as we know related challenges that need to be addressed – taking controlled risks and regarding cyber security. In the case of cyber security, it is important that the risks do not mean that the digital progress should be stopped, it means rather forced to develop even more strongly, to find an even more and better solutions for problems that are faced and problems that might occur. We have to balance both problems, issues and solutions.
Norway and Estonia both want to grow on smart society
In Norway areas where we want to grow business as a country were defined by a nationwide gathering that we had at Innovation Norway to process that we call Dream Commitment. Estonia’s has their national business development priorities in Smart Specialization Strategy. If we look for the matches of the two, then smart society clearly comes out. More specifically of smart society it is energy efficiency, it is waste management, digital construction, smart houses, industry 4.0, public e-services and e-health. These are common areas.
The potential for cooperation in smart society between Norway and Estonia I would say belongs to the world class. For example, energy efficiency was also one of the focuses of Norway-Estonia Green IT program. Skeleton Technologies and their Norwegian partner NxTech got funding from this program. The company has now grown from a startup into the world’s top hundred most innovative clean energy companies with their high power and high voltage solutions to save energy. This is a clear example!
Digital power coupling between Norway and Estonia has great synergies
Firstly – it’s all about competences. There are few as advanced IT nations as Norway and Estonia in the world. There is what to offer to each other and to others. Facts that illustrate that 75 percent of Norway Grants funded projects were partnership projects between Estonian and Norwegian companies and several projects have won international business awards already. And we should be much better at communicating these projects and what kind of awards we are actually winning together.
Our countries are different risk takers. Estonian state is, I would say, experimenting as a startup. I envy you a little bit! Norway compared behaves a little bit more as an established company. We both had an option going for an electronic ID years ago. Estonia chose to have it, Norway not due to concerns about personal data protection. Some risks are always at least theoretically there. Estonia has now, because you made that bold decision, the world’s most advanced national digital infrastructure. This is available as a test site for Norwegian companies. This possibility can help our entrepreneurs to be ahead of global development and gain a competitive advantage for developing products and services for international markets.
There is also a good cultural match. Because Norwegian positivity combined with Estonian I would say hard working mentality is a universally winning combination, I’ve heard. At least from customers and partners working together.
In addition to great synergies we are privileged because we have common funding – From bilateral, in addition Nordic and EU sources.
There has been a dedicated Norway Grants funding available for Estonian and Norwegian companies to develop green IT businesses the last years. Asides funding projects it has also helped to create many new contacts between companies and branch organizations and build awareness on the possibilities on both sides. Innovation Norway has started to cooperate much more with our sister organization Enterprise Estonia thanks to that funding. And actually last year we have done work shadow days with the CEO of Enterprise Estonia and have done joint workshops. It means that I flew to Tallinn and I was shadowing the CEO of Enterprise Estonia for couple of days to learn how he is doing the work. I was so impressed. At first day his first visitor was from the White House trying to understand how the Estonian government is working with digitalization. I think I learned a lot from shadowing my colleague in Estonia and we should do that much more.
In addition, bilateral funding Norwegian and Estonian companies and organizations also have an access to grant, to loans and to equity from Nordic sources and EU for developing businesses together. It means everything has good framework for actually working together.
I’m excited that the next period of Norway Grants will bring. It is already clear that the innovation program will be the largest one in Estonia. My colleague Frauke Muth will tell you more about that later today. But for sure it will be the largest innovation program in Estonia. It means a lot of possibilities, probably a lot of obstacles and problems but we have already decided that we will go for the opportunities and we will solve the issues while we are walking.
I would also like to see the following opportunities to be followed up:
Estonian national grid company has developed a smart grid data exchange platform Estfeed from Norway Grant funding. This is actually quite unique in the world. Elering now welcomes partners, including from Norway to test their solutions at this platform. Our Smart Innovation cluster should take a look at that possibility as well at e-Estonia showroom. I would really encourage you all to have a look at the smart grid data exchange platform. We should have much deeper look at it from the Norwegian side.
Last year Estonia introduced at OIW their eResidency project removing national borders for making business. I remember I was introduced with this eResidency thought and you said that within x times of years you’re going have ten million eResidents in Estonia. I mean what kind of welcoming mobilization is this? So we welcome everybody who wants to work on tech and digitalization and you invite them in with the eResidency, I think that it is a brilliant idea! But also looking at this from the Norwegian side, because if there is anything we lack in Norway, it’s people! We have a lot of space, a lot of tasks but we’re also only 4,3 million people.
Now I got eResidency of Estonia and am curious of what that means in practice! I’m going to figure this out! I was underlined that eResidency does not give physical residency in Estonia and that any value added will be taxed in the countries where it is generated. I think that it is smart and it’s very compliant. I also heard that Estonian Tax Department is interested in a pilot project on this. This is good news. I know that there are contacts between Estonian State Information Agency, DIFI, Altinn already and believe Norway could be a very good partner for that.
I have been told that eResidency has created most traction in neighboring countries with the closest business ties to Estonia and then from the emerging markets. I learned that eResidency has founded eTrade For All initiative together with the United Nations and leading international organizations and companies, which aims to enable more businesses and people to benefit from e-commerce. That is Estonia, taking it out to the World in UN! Digital trade can be a powerful driver of economic growth and job-creation across the developing world. Worth of global e-commerce market is estimated at $25 trillion. I don’t even know how to relate to so many millions… trillions, I’m sorry. At the same time 73 percent of the world’s citizens are still unable to take on global business according World Bank. The challenges are access to payments, financing for e-commerce, and ICT infrastructure and e-services. eResidency actually helps to solve this.
Norway together with eResidency can play a crucial role in eTrade For All. Norway has been one of the world largest aid givers per capita for decades. Now our networks in emerging markets combined with Estonia’s digital infrastructure can be used for developing trade. This is a both news and also a content that UN and the World will listen to. This also goes one-to-one into the UN sustainable development goals.
I’ve just been to a hackathon just close to the Opera, where they are actually using technology to make sure that we give digital identity to people who are refugees. Remember half of these refugees are children, 65 million people are refugees without digital identities, so what we can do with the eResidency within the camps and how we can develop it even further, I think that there is a huge potential.
Have heard that a popular weekend hackathon Garage48 in Estonia gathered participants from 26 different countries to work out eResidency related products and services. I hereby invite Estonia to organize such eResidency hackathon at next Oslo Innovation Week!
Thank you for your eResidency and I’m excited to see where our journey of digital power coupling will lead because it has just begun!
Text recorded and written by Annely Särglep.