Why Estonia is the most talked about place in tech

7th November 2017

As one of the UK’s leading mobile app development, IoT and digital consulting companies, Waracle have such an interest in digital transformation and our interest goes well beyond Scotland. We were pretty excited when we got together with Wallet.Services and QikServe to arrange a study visit to Tallinn, Estonia in October 2017. Why?

For a small country of only 1.4M people, Estonia is actually one of the most talked about places in technology. It’s a world renowned digital leader which is recognised as the most advanced digital society in the world and is home to many exciting early stage tech companies.

To learn more, we arranged our Scottish tech tour to the Estonian government and to meet with various Estonian founders, entrepreneurs and investors. Greeted by the UK Ambassador and British Estonian Chamber, we soon began to discover why Estonia is so innovative overall.

Linnar Viik

One of the many highlights of the trip was hearing from Linnar Viik, Estonia’s Internet guru and innovation advocate. He was one of the team tasked with building systems for a whole new country when Estonia set itself free during the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Viik helped Estonia become the first country in the world to adopt a system of e-governance, changing its cabinet meetings to paperless sessions.

We, in Scotland, and the Scottish Government could learn a lot from him and his e-governance academy in particular.  Interestingly, Viik had just presented to German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who is the most recent world leader to visit the e-Estonia Showroom. We expect other Heads of Government will follow as there’s a lot to be learnt from Estonia. The innovative choices they made back in the nineties still form the base for digital trust today. It’s a great story and you must listen to Linnar tell it as To E or not to E.

Digital Trust

We’re fascinated to learn that pretty much anything can be done digitally in Estonia!

It’s obvious that digital trust has transformed the entire Estonian culture.  Estonia has made many (if not all) of their government services digital which naturally makes everything faster. Everything is built on integrity and there are high standards for both Government and business ethics.


What was the key to getting everything digital? Estonia didn’t use any of the big established companies. What they did, was use a much more agile approach by using lean local tech companies to take them further and faster. These Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) each developed the infrastructure to underpin the innovative blockchain and cloud based services in Estonia.  As each company made small steps, the keystone piece was the Digital ID.

Estonian Digital ID

In Estonia, every citizen has a Digital Identity Card. This Digital ID allows them to use public services and transport, banking, healthcare, e-prescriptions, online tax returns (filed in under one minute!) and so much more. However, there are some exceptions – marriage, divorce and buying a house cannot be done digitally.

The Estonian digital ID is also used as a signature on any legal document. In fact, the digital version of a contract is actually regarded as the original. Anything printed and signed is treated as a copy.  Estonia boasts about having an almost paperless society, with the President claiming not to have signed one law on paper in his 3-year tenure!

Estonian Citizens Own Their Data

With this Digital ID, comes a strong emphasis on security to protect everyone’s rights and privacy. Effectively, every Estonian owns their own data. This brings about a great basis for trust, openness and transparency since a digital ID lets you see who has accessed your data – and in real time.

It’s transparent that everyone is committed to doing their best for the country and lifting it up further. There seems to be a genuine sense of civic responsibility.  It’s common for people to have a job and also study part-time to deepen their knowledge in their specialisation.

E-resident program

The E-Residency program is fascinating. The Digital ID is not restricted to people living in Estonia.  You can actually create your own Estonian Digital ID. Therefore, anybody can become an Estonian E-Resident which makes it easy to have an Estonian company in Europe. It’s an easy route to having a European presence!

Let’s learn from Estonia

What was really fascinating to me was not where Estonia was digitally today, but it was how it got here.  It was IMHO ‘Lean startup’ Government, using many of the techniques and thinking of successful software startups and scale up.  This was a pragmatic choice which paid dividends. Since gaining independence, Estonia has implemented a huge deal of legislation to create buy-in from all of its citizens. In 2000, Estonia became the first country in the world to declare Internet access as a basic human right. It has built itself into a world renowned digital leader and has the impressive accolade of being recognised as the most advanced digital society in the world.

Look at what Estonia has achieved:

  • Number 1 for OECD Tax Competitiveness
  • Number 1 for European Commission – EU digital economy and society index, Public Services
  • Number 1 for World Economic Forum – Entrepreneurship
  • Number 2 for Freedom House – Internet freedom
  • Number 1 for Barclays 2018 Digital Development Index
  • Number 1 for Global IT report – Mobile Network Coverage
  • Number 12 for World Bank Global Ease of Doing Business ranking
  • Number 9 for Freedom House Index of Economic Freedom

Entrepreneurial companies get much further, much faster – and it all just connects together. Let’s learn from Estonia and build a better society and better businesses for ourselves.

Thanks to all of the Scottish tech community tour party

Thank you to all  who were able to join our trip to Tallinn and thank you to Neil Mathieson in Estonia for being our host. Tallinn is a beautiful place and definitely worth a visit – including the stadium!

Estonia Center

If you would like to learn more about other trends affecting mobile app development, download one of our free whitepapers on mobile trends and mobile marketing.

About Waracle

Waracle, part of Exception, are one of the UK’s largest mobile app development, IoT and digital consulting companies.  Since 2008 Waracle have created some of the most exciting Mobile and IoT apps on the market.

With offices in Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, Waracle have a rapidly growing team of industry leading UX designers, scrum-masters, iOS, Android and Hybrid developers, QA and App Store Optimisation experts.   We’ve proven in-depth experience across many industry sectors including; Fintech, Scientific Research, Digital Health, Energy, Transportation and Luxury Goods and have become a trust partner for many of the UK’s largest brands.

Our experience has resulted in a robust engineering process that has agile at it’s core.   We have the flexibility to work with small teams, as part of your own team or scale up for large projects. Waracle’s team have commercially succeeded in creating, developing and launching industry leading software products and bring that knowledge and experience into each customer engagement.

Waracle is regularly cited as an industry leading mobile app and IoT development company from independent research companies including Clutch, AppIndex and Carnival.   Waracle are also an IBM Watson IoT Partner.

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