STRONGER TOGETHER

Oman 2018 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Jüri Ratas, Prime Minister of Estonia, on the longstanding cooperation between both countries, their mutual efforts in cybersecurity, and areas of interest in Oman for Estonian companies.

Jüri Ratas
BIOGRAPHY
Jüri Ratas was born on July 2, 1978. He obtained his master’s degree in economic sciences from the Tallinn University of Technology. He also holds a degree in law from the University of Tartu. From 2007-2016, Ratas held the position of Vice-President of the 11th, 12th, and 13th Estonian parliaments. He served as the Deputy Mayor of Tallinn, and from 2005-2007 as the Mayor of Tallinn. In 2002, he was elected the Economic Adviser to the Tallinn City Office. Ratas has also contributed to the development of Estonian basketball; he served as the President of the Estonian Basketball Association from 2012 to 2016.

How are Oman and Estonia working together when it comes to pioneering digital solutions for better respective governance?

Estonia and Oman have a longstanding and well-developed level of cooperation when it comes to e-government and ICT, first and foremost in creating and implementing e-solutions. It is gratifying to see how this collaboration has evolved over the last few years, and it is our hope that Estonian companies will also be involved in several ICT projects in Oman in the future. After all, Oman has achieved remarkable progress in ICT together with its Estonian partners. Estonia is well known as a highly digital society. Wider use of digital solutions creates economic growth and thereby increases the wellbeing of the population; it saves both money and time. Digitalization will lead to tremendous opportunities not only in Estonia and the EU in coming decades, but everywhere in the world.

Oman and Estonia have both ranked in the top five in global cybersecurity. What can be achieved by collaboration on this front?

In order to seize these opportunities for our people and companies, we first have to ensure trust and security for a digital society. Cybersecurity is crucial for both prosperity and security—security must come first. Malicious cyber activities not only threaten economies, but also the very functioning of our democracies and freedoms. As the internet knows no state borders, no single state can fight cybercrime and the terrorist use of cyberspace alone. It is a global challenge, especially as we enter the age of the IoT, in which connected devices will provide many millions more access points that hackers can target to launch cyber-attacks or plant malware. We have to address this together globally. Cybersecurity in many cases is a matter of procedures in addition to technical capabilities. Oman has been implementing many advanced information systems and cloud-based approaches. It is good to see that Oman, as a major trade hub in the Middle East, is making the best use of ICT to boost its own capabilities. Oman and Estonia together could be pathfinders or role models in cybersecurity solutions for other countries and cooperation partners in Asia and Africa.

In which sectors are Estonian companies and individuals most active in Oman, and vice versa?

Estonian companies have participated in a number of defense industry fairs in Gulf countries—International Defence Exhibition & Conference (IDEX) and Unmanned Systems Exhibition and Conference (UMEX), to name a couple—and plan to visit the Gulfood fair in the near future as these are the economic spheres where Estonian companies are most successful and competitive, in addition to ICT. One incentive for Omani entrepreneurs to look toward Estonia, and which could boost our trade relations, is definitely our e-Residency program. We offer a secure digital identity to foreigners to run a company from their country of origin. We launched e-Residency on December 1, 2014, which 22,000 people from 140 countries have already applied for. E-Residents have established over 2,000 new companies in Estonia, and 2,500 companies are owned by e-Residents.

What other areas of significant focus are there for bilateral relations between Estonia and Oman moving forward?

As mentioned, Estonia and Oman enjoy good collaboration in ICT, but now are looking to widen that scope and investigate possibilities in design and cosmetics. There has also been interest for closer trade relations in exports and imports of food products, medical equipment, construction materials, and so on. Tourism, as well as cultural exchange more broadly, are widely unexplored industries that could offer up exciting opportunities for mutual engagement. There is work in progress with several agreements in order to enhance the bilateral relations of Estonia and Oman, and the honorary consuls in both countries could contribute to strengthening relations beyond the fruitful relationship we share today.