Estonia calls on tech innovators to collaborate on new government services

By Natalie Leal on 09/14/2021 | Updated on 04/02/2022

The Estonian CIO acknowledges that start-ups and entrepreneurs often face barriers when trying to partner with public sector organisations. Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi via Unsplash

The Estonian government grants technology-focused organizations and entrepreneurs access to its technology resources on the condition that they can use all resulting tools and services free of charge.

He says he seeks to collaborate with start-ups, large corporations, governments, researchers and entrepreneurs from all over the world through his Digital test bench frame. Participants will be able to test new ideas and build prototypes of products to improve public services. There will be no financial obligation on either side.

Siim Sikkut, Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Estonia, said: “The problem facing many start-ups today is that the cooperative environment on which the public sector is based is old, outdated and inflexible, which makes integration and collaboration difficult.

Calling on “everyone and everyone” to collaborate, he said the government wanted to partner with innovative people in various sectors. “Whether you’re a coder wanting to help improve Estonia’s digital services or an entrepreneur wanting to test your solution in one of the world’s most digitally advanced countries, we’d love to hear from you.”

Participants will have the opportunity to test their new products against Estonian government technology and get a free proof of concept before commercial deployment. Any new solution will then become part of the government’s publicly available source code repository.

“[The framework] is quick and simple to use and there is no lengthy sales or approval process or unnecessary paperwork,” the Digital Testing Framework Fact Sheet said. “We will bring you… our constructive feedback on your idea and if our collaboration is a success, we will shout your name from the rooftops”.

Estonia is one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world, with 99% of its public services accessible online. The Digital Testbed Framework has been instrumental in the country’s internal digital development, according to the government, and has been used to develop national projects such as the TEXTA toolkit (which uses AI to predict whether comments should or not be posted in public forums) and HOIA – the country’s official COVID-19 exposure notification app.

The framework has also been used by the Estonian Parliament and the Ministry of Education and Research, and has helped the Police and Border Guard Board to detect cases of domestic violence.

The Estonian government hopes that this new model of international collaboration will encourage other innovative ideas for its public services. Estonian Minister of Entrepreneurship and IT, Andres Sutt, said: “In order to continue innovating and building our digital government, we believe in open partnerships and cooperation with the private sector. This is why the Digital Testbed Framework was born.

Interested parties are invited to submit their ideas by October 10, 2021.

Ashley C. Reynolds