SMART FOUNDATIONS

Dubai 2016 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

TBY talks to Taavi Rõivas, Prime Minister of Estonia, on collaboration, digital technology, and becoming partners.

Taavi Rõivas
BIOGRAPHY
Taavi Rõivas has been Prime Minister since March 26, 2014, after serving as Minister of Social Affairs. He has been a member of the 11th and 12th Riigikogu, Chairman for the European Union Affairs Committee and the Finance Committee, and a member of the Social Affairs Committee. He has also previously performed the duties of Adviser and Office Manager for the Minister of the Population Affairs of the Republic of Estonia, Customer Account Executive for large corporate companies in the AS IT Grupp, and Adviser to the Minister of Justice. He holds a degree in international economics and marketing from the University of Tartu.

In October 2015, an MoU was signed between Estonia and Dubai on smart government. How do you assess the evolution of bilateral relations with Dubai?

The signing of the MoU on ICT and smart city collaboration is a major step forward for relations between Dubai and Estonia, although we have had cordial relations with the UAE for quite some time, paved by various agreements between our governments. The new MoU is still a big step on a longer path. It lays the foundations, signals the will, and opens the door to practical collaboration between not only our government agencies, but also Emirati and Estonian companies and investors. Although the MoU and our current collaboration initiatives deal with digital economy and government, there is clearly potential for more as we discussed with HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, during our meeting. Estonia can offer a hassle-free business environment gateway to Nordic, European, and even Russian markets for Emirati companies and investors. From our end, our tech, wood, food, and defense industries could have potential new clients in Dubai and the rest of the GCC region. The focus and core interest for collaboration will be in the digital government sphere first and foremost; that is where we know each other best and is where we have the biggest symbiosis. Dubai has a very ambitious smart city development program. It would be our honor to offer our knowhow from 15 years of building the digital government in Estonia and being a globally renowned pioneer on this front. Our companies are also more than willing to offer the state-of-the-art digital solutions that they have built for our government or for governments from different parts of the world for use in this setting.

In what areas could Dubai's expertise be of interest to Estonia?

One example is the way that digital services work on mobile platforms in Dubai. The Dubai Now app is a perfect example of usability and service-orientation combined. How it is designed and how different services and agencies are brought together to offer the best user-experience really captured my attention while in Dubai. More generally, we would like to set up a regular dialogue and keep up with policy and strategy and also new solutions as they emerge in Dubai.

What is your outlook for future cooperation between Estonia and the UAE?

Upon my recent visit to Dubai I found that we are much more similar than one would think, given our slight geographic distance. Both of our governments and people are ambitious and willing to take risks for development, and both want to rely on technology to make developmental leaps. We both are very pro-business, encouraging trade and investment. As such, there is a lot of common ground for a mutually beneficial exchange of know-how and practices. At the same time, as both Dubai and Estonia are small, we need partners to go out into the wider world. Dubai could be a bridge for Estonian companies to enter the GCC, as well as South Asian markets. Estonia can offer the same in the Nordic countries and EU for Dubai and its companies. Most importantly, our private sectors could work together to leverage this potential. Finally, we are keen to innovate the future together. We are keen to collaborate on trying some of our key digital solutions in Dubai in a smart city setting. As an outcome, we can perhaps build new or improved solutions that we can then offer jointly to the wider world as a world class, or even world standard, solution.