Estonia has been on the forefront of implementing digital public services for well over a decade now. We like to say that there are only three things you cannot do online in Estonia – get married, get divorced or buy property. But for every other interaction with the government, we have a faster and cheaper, digital option. Last week I joined a group of companies led by the Estonian prime minister to introduce Estonian digital innovation model to France.

Digital Services Will Boost Economic Growth

France is one of the leading economies in Europe but has received criticism regarding high unemployment, lacklustre economic growth and high public spending. These all areas where more digital services can have an important impact. Estonia has shown that bringing more public services into the digital sphere will save costs by shrinking the public sector. In addition, it will boost the economy by making it easier for both companies and individuals to interact with the government. Of course, it’s much more challenging to redesign the public sector in a country of 66 million people compared to one with only 1.3 million.

France and Estonia – not that different

Aside from the differences in digital public services, the two countries actually have a lot in common. In the discussions with MEDEF – the biggest entrepreneurial organisation in France, it became clear that both countries are facing the same challenges when it comes to digitalisation. Although the use of the Internet is high in both Estonia and France, companies still struggle to fill job positions that require advanced IT skills. The governments of each country have ambitious plans to reform the educational system and bring essential programming skills to everyone. For example, Estonia plans to teach code to first-graders.

Overall, Estonia still has a long way to go to reach France’s wealth and productivity levels. Still, if France could implement only a few of the digital services available in Estonia, it will become the fastest growing economy in Europe. Eliko continues to develop the Estonian e-government with new smart city projects, such as the Kalaranna Smart Street.

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