TALLINN - Cooperation between Estonia and Finland in the field of information and communication technology was welcomed and heralded at a Dec. 11 meeting between Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, reports LETA.
The previous day the prime ministers concluded the world’s first known digitally signed intergovernmental agreement focusing on common development of e-services.
Prime Minister Ansip said that Finland has always served as a great example for Estonia in the field of information technology. “Finland was the first to present an ID-card. Estonia followed the e-ID development both in Finland and Sweden with interest and this has greatly inspired the development of Estonia’s national electronic identity,” Ansip said at the meeting.
According to Ansip, the key advantage of the digital signature is in time savings, that of citizens, entrepreneurs, officials. “Saving time also helps to save money. In Estonia, we save time with a value of two percent of the annual gross domestic product by using digital signatures. This is equivalent to saving one week of working time per person,” said Ansip.
The Estonian prime minister expressed hope that digitally signing the Memorandum of Understanding also contributes to the economic relationship between Finland and Estonia. “There are about 4,500 Finnish companies in Estonia and about 3,500 Estonian companies in Finland. One can only imagine how much more effective the communication between the two countries will become due to digital signing,” Ansip added.
Ansip assumes that the introduction of digital signatures throughout the European Union would result in major economic benefit: “I hope that we have managed to set the pattern together with Finland.”
As one of the central agreements of the Memorandum of Understanding, the national data exchange platform will be developed together with Finland. The greatest benefit arising from such platforms is that the citizens and institutions are required to provide data only once, and thereafter the data can be easily and securely shared.
For example, companies operating in another country have to turn to their homeland institution, receive data on paper from there, travel back by ship or plane, and then submit the data on paper to the authority of another country, where it is entered into a computer.
“This situation has certainly outlived its usefulness, especially in countries with advanced information and communication technologies such as Finland and Estonia,” Prime Minister Ansip said.
Common cross-border e-services between the two countries will be developed and offered on the basis of the introduction of the X-Road-like solution in Finland. The first pilot projects will be completed by 2014.
The implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding or cooperating in the field of e-government will be coordinated by the Finnish Ministry of Finance, the government of Finland and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and its division, the Information System’s Authority, in Estonia.
Bilateral relations and expectations for the forthcoming European Council meeting were discussed at the meeting, reviewing issues of the euro area, economy, and technology. Discussion also included the Eastern Partnership and recent events in Ukraine.
Also, the LNG terminal was discussed. According to Ansip, a possible location for the LNG terminal has been given to independent experts to be assessed. The final assessment of whether the terminal is better suited to Estonia or Finland will be made by the European Commission. “We will wait for the Commission’s decision and take it into account,” Ansip said. “It does not matter whether the LNG terminal is established on one or the other side of the Gulf of Finland; for us, it is a particularly important alternative source of gas supply.”