Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid
Digitalization will improve, not worsen, equalities, and can help build power and wealth for a small society like Estonia, said its President Kersti Kaljulaid, champion of connectivity technology to empower resource-poor country.
“Digital disruption has made our (Estonian) society not only richer but a better place and far more equal,” said Kaljulaid during her keynote speech at the 19th World Knowledge Forum (WKF) in Seoul on Wednesday morning.
Estonia is a small country with 80 percent of economic activities taking place outside the country. The Estonian government has worked to have its citizens and businesses have “a totally digital environment” to have its people “benefit from the technological development,” she said.
The eastern European country is one of the frontrunners in engaging digital technologies. Electronic signing became legal from 2000 and elections are made online from 2005. Since 2007, the entire country has served as a testbed for blockchain-based technology.
Digital has become common from cradle to grave. When a baby is born in Estonia, the birth registry is done automatically at the hospital. When a person is sick, the patient can receive treatment in the digitalized ambulance on the way to a medical center. Foreigners can receive Estonia’s “e-residency” and open business abroad without ever visiting Estonia.
Although the country lacks hardware technology, people are familiar with blockchain technology-based personal identification, which allows them to use various public services. “We are quick followers. We are not creators of technology,” she said.
She said the digitalization has brought more advantages to the socially vulnerable groups and small and medium enterprises. “Very often, people say digital takes jobs away…but actually, on the contrary, digital makes the job market more equal and more accessible, and also much bigger because you do not necessarily need to work in your own country,” Kaljulaid said.
She argues that the digitalization has made the job market fairer and bigger, allowing people in remote areas, physically challenged and women rearing young children to have greater job opportunities.
“Industrial era is over. Digital era is here and we all need to adopt,” said Kaljulaid, urging the world, especially “rich countries” to “support networking and creation of similar digital societies everywhere.”
“(Digitalization) is good for society. It is a good equalizer. It is a good opportunity that we must not miss but it takes us all together.”
The WKF, which kicked off on Wednesday at the Jangchung Arena and Hotel Shilla in central Seoul will run for three days. More than 250 leaders from political, economic, business, and technology sectors around the world are attending this year’s forum comprised of 110 sessions under the theme of “Collective Intelligence: Overcoming Global Pandemonium.”
By Shin Hyun-kyu, Kim Hyo-hye, and Cho Jeehyun
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]