Estonian president at UN: Pandemic offers opportunity for technological leap

  • 2020-09-24
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - The coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath have given the world an opportunity for a great global technological leap, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said in her speech at the 75th United Nations General Assembly on Thursday.

The president focused in her speech on the advantages of digital technology, citing the example of Estonia as the world's first digitally transformed state, where all public services run online.

"Disruption by pandemic was limited to upscaling e-education and distant working. We saw less scramble than any other country to move everything online which previously ran on paper," Kaljulaid said, adding that Estonia wants the same for the rest of the world.

"We want equal opportunities for people globally to work from distance wherever they are. We want equal opportunities for people with special needs and homebound women to be able to work through digital means, intermittently as their schedule allows," she said.

Estonia wants a global free labor market, which does not necessitate people to migrate, but stay where they want.

Thirty percent of jobs in Estonia are doable from distance. Estonia, as a late industrializer, serves as a role model for countries looking to leapfrog with the help of technologies, the president said.

"In a way the pandemic and its aftermath gives us an opportunity for a great global technological leap. Digital solutions can make our societies more equal, more resilient, more accessible and sustainable," she said.

The president warned, however, that leaders globally must understand that digital services do not by themselves rid any country from fat bureaucracy, corruption or inefficiency.

"By digitalizing these problems we can only make things worse, unless we simultaneously rise transparency and straighten out our processes. Thus digitalization can make our states more efficient and bring closer to our people," she said.

The Estonian head of state also pointed out that as we tackle the global pandemic, conventional and unconventional threats have not disappeared. The world around us is as unpredictable and unsecure as it was before.

"Take the ongoing wars in Ukraine and Syria. Or the conflict in Sahel and the recent devastating disaster in Lebanon. As well as the grave human rights violations in Belarus," she said.

"Overall, the pandemic has even reinforced some of the consequences of conflicts, for example the health and well-being of the most vulnerable -- the children, women and adolescents. The pandemic has been used as a pretext to lift sanctions or restrict humanitarian aid. New divisions have emerged. This, my friends, is unacceptable," the president said.

The meeting of the UN General Assembly is taking place as a virtual meeting this year. All  speeches by national leaders were asked to be sent in as pre-recorded video speeches.