Ilves: Estonia first to experience both advantages and threats of digital era

  • 2015-04-08
  • from wire reports and TBT staff, TALLINN

"As the digital world increasingly becomes the real world or, more accurately, as the real world becomes digital, it is inevitable that everyone will have to acquire some level of digital literacy," said Estonian President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves during a public lecture at Tallinn University of Technology on the subject of analysing people's inevitable and rapidly increasing dependence on the digital world.

President Ilves claimed that a smart state will ensure that its educational system helps people to cope in the new environment, and he added that it can do this, "by offering the knowledge required for future jobs, such as in the sphere of law or medicine, and giving an elementary awareness of technology," the president's office reports.

According to President Ilves, even today in Estonia we can see one version of networking and a computerised future, in which the digital world has become an inseparable component that society needs to work – a third of the electorate's votes are cast on the Internet; almost 100% of income tax returns and prescriptions for medicinal products are drawn up on the Internet and almost every aspect of banking has moved online. Estonians do business on the Internet, and have now given more than 200 million digital signatures - and the speed of all these processes is increasing, Ilves pointed out.

He further emphasised that Estonians must continue to uphold the fundamental values that form the foundation of a modern civilised life in a liberal democratic country: human rights, the principles of a state based on the rule of law, and free and fair elections.

The head of state stated that we are now in unchartered territory; the rules have not been established yet and we are only just beginning to work towards finding the meaning of liberal democracy in the digital era. 

"In many spheres, we still haven't found explicit answers that match the requirements of the digital era. And we certainly do not adhere to the solutions offered by non-democratic countries, with total and general censure being one of them," he said.

As a state that strongly relies on digital solutions, Estonians experience the advantages of the digital era as well as the accompanying threats before others do, Ilves said.

"In 2014, the security environment around us considerably deteriorated. The fact that a war has been going on in Europe also became evident in the statistics of cyber incidents in Estonia. However, there are also other urgent issues to be handled. Apart from national defence, we need to consider the liberties of citizens and democracy," President Ilves told.

The Head of State was invited to give the lecture by the Students Council of the Information Technology Department of Tallinn University of Technology. "IT Future" is a series of lectures on the future of the information society, given throughout the year at Tallinn University of Technology. The presentations are given by specialists who have a specific understanding of IT that could help to broaden students' knowledge.