TALLINN – In February, representatives of the European branch of Microsoft visited the Estonian Information System Authority (RIA) and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and signed a cooperation accord with Estonia.
"The cooperation accord provides Estonia with an excellent opportunity to use the world's top development competence to create new and unique solutions for the Burokratt ecosystem and, hopefully, more broadly in the future," Estonia's Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology Andres Sutt said in a press release.
The minister emphasized that the solutions to be developed together with Microsoft will be available to everyone for free.
"It was important for us in the negotiations that the solutions developed together can be used by everyone, so the benefits of the cooperation are wider than one project and businesses and other state agencies will also benefit from it," said Sutt.
Firstly, the parties will work together under the cooperation agreement in the development of the virtual assistant of Burokratt. However, this is only one part of the wider partnership. Last year, the ministry and Microsoft signed a letter of intent to promote the deployment of cloud solutions in the public sector and to engage in wider cooperation in development with a view to deploying new solutions in the digital state.
Ott Velsberg, head of data for the digital state at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, said that cooperation with Microsoft supports the transition to cloud solutions in the wider public sector and strengthens the cloud service competence.
"This in turn helps to improve the user experience of state services and ultimately makes the functioning of the infrastructure safer," Velsberg said, adding that in Estonia's national cloud policy, the introduction of cloud solutions offered by the private sector is important.
In addition, wider collaboration will allow the ministry to better assess how public cloud solutions can be used more securely, he said.
According to RIA, the agreement with Microsoft will not change the current procurement process.
"We will continue to develop solutions for the Burokratt through procurement and to seek development partners. Working with Microsoft gives us one additional gear to shift to. They are sort of a lever for us, who can put their back into it if there is a common interest," Kaupo Laagrikull, head of the department for machine learning and language technology at RIA, said.
"Neither party is obliged to contribute to the development of every component or piece, but if Microsoft and RIA agree, this can be done. This gives flexibility to both parties and at the same time creates a better opportunity for partnership," he explained.
The ministry and RIA are collaborating with Microsoft's international research and development team. The partnership does not have a specific deadline and will last as long as both parties wish. The first joint project, in the development of a distributed message room (DMR), is already underway.
"The agreements will allow us to leverage cutting-edge knowledge and experience in the development of Burokratt and its components, which would otherwise be difficult to obtain, and thus help take the digital state to the next level of development," Rainer Turner, the architect of Burokratt, said.
In conjunction with Microsoft, RIA wants to create a safe and functional architecture, specifically business architecture, for Estonia, which could be reproduced in the future.
"We want to use Microsoft's top-notch specialists to jointly develop and receive feedback on the implementation of machine learning as well as architectural solutions," said Laagrikull, the departmental head at RIA.
He added that such a comparison of works will help to create better thought-out and designed solutions.