The Driving Forces Behind Estonia’s Tech Takeoff
Blessed with a burgeoning technology ecosystem, Estonia is firmly making a name for itself as a major tech city. But turn back twenty years ago and Estonia was crumbling after the collapse of the Soviet Union. So how did one of the smallest countries in Europe manage to turn its fate around and become a leader in technology?
Well much of this is thanks to the successive government, Prime Minister Mart Laar and the now President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Revolutionary in their thinking, the young government did not try to reinvent the wheel, but instead set about utilizing the situation Estonia had found itself in. The lack of official paperwork and bureaucracy meant Estonia could build itself up using just the internet.
Seizing the tech and internet boom of the 1990’s, Estonia has become one of the most tech focused countries in the world, the first e-government, it was the first country in the world to introduce online voting, it has among the world’s fastest internet speeds and has the most number of startups per person.
Ilves has been crucial in continuing to advance Estonia’s position as a tech hub, investing heavily in math’s and engineering; in 1998 he set about plans to equip every classroom with computers and internet access and made it compulsory for every child to be taught code. In 2000, the government went on to declare access to the internet a basic human right, propelling Estonia as a tech city to be reckoned with.
Ilves remains heavily engaged with the technology scene, particularly the startup ecosystem and recently visited a number of Tartu based IT companies to promote the blossoming startup scene both at home and abroad.
December 2016 will see Tartu, Estonia welcome their first international business festival, sTARTUp Day 2016 where more than 1,000 tech and business enthusiasts will meet. Entrepreneurs, startups, government and media will come together on the 9th of December to discuss the growing startup ecosystem as well as different business models.
Keynote speakers will be addressing the question ‘How to earn if there is nothing to burn?’, discussing how young startups can be quick to burn through money without actually making any and instead discussing how startups can go about avoiding this. Other talks will cover current issues in biotechnologies, computer-simulated reality, the creative industry, outsourced research and development, entrepreneurial teaching, cybersecurity, the sports industry, smart solutions and space technologies.
The lineup of speakers is impressive, including big hitters like the Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas, the Mayor of Tartu Urmas Klaas and Volli Kalm, the rector of the the University of Tartu. President Ilves has of course been invited along by the startup community but it remains to be seen if he will also be in attendance.
If you are in the area on the 9th of December, this is an event not to be missed!