Executive Breif - June 2024: Oma Silm On Kuningas - Your Own Eye is the King

Executive Breif - June 2024: Oma Silm On Kuningas - Your Own Eye is the King

When you read the following stats, what place comes to mind?

- First among peer jurisdictions in test scores in math and science and second in reading

- Tech education is a core part of curricula from a very young age

- On a per capita basis, #1 in the world for startup formation with over 1,500 startups and 10 startups valued at over $1B each

- $4B in VC funding in the past 10 years

- It takes less than 3 hours to start a company, including accessing advisory services and competing all filings, registrations and approvals 99% of public services are available online.

  - 98% of companies are established online

  - 99% of banking transactions are done online

  - 92% of the population uses the Internet on a regular basis

  - Fully-automated tax reporting  

  - Residents can get married, renew their driver’s license, sell and purchase real estate, learn about and access family benefits including healthcare services, vote, etc.--all online

- 0% corporate income tax on retained and reinvested profits

- Low red tape with transparent and stable legislation

Wired Magazine recognized it as “the most advanced digital society in the world”

It’s not Oregon. In fact, it’s not a U.S. state. It’s a country with a population ⅓ the size of Oregon’s.  It’s Estonia, a tiny Baltic country that received its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. I visited Estonia last week as part of a conference of honorary consuls from around the world (I am one of the newest honorary consul candidates to Estonia from the U.S.) for a series of high-level meetings with Estonia’s President, Foreign Minister, business and academic leaders, and I had an opportunity to see much of the above first-hand.  

Faced with a declining population, economic challenges, and a lumbering, siloed state bureaucracy, in the early 2000s Estonia embarked on a multi-year, multi-sector effort to transform the country into a tech-savvy, resilient, digital-first nation.  This led to the development of Estonia’s highly-secure, open source, distributed personal identity management system, called XROAD.  In partnership with the private sector, Estonia has since developed a whole series of applications and services that sit on top of this decentralized architecture.  And this expertise is now being exported to the world by local private sector companies and NGOs.  

While still a work in progress, there is a lot to admire about the outcomes listed above.  

Oregon is currently experiencing a declining population, and while we do not have a hostile nation-state next door, the State of Oregon experiences on average a little over 1 data breach per day.  And that’s only including the known and reported breaches.  Our government has a siloed, inefficient set of databases and legacy IT infrastructure that is costly to maintain.  

Time is one of the most vital commodities available to an entrepreneur.  If we are going to claim that Oregon is a world-class destination for startups, we need to make sure that our business environment, including the IT infrastructure that supports service delivery, is optimized for efficiency and truly benefits residents and businesses.  Estonia achieved the above outcomes with a fraction of the resources that we have here in Oregon.  The question is, do we have the political will?

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