Honorable ministers, excellencies! Dear entrepreneurs and academics! Ladies and Gentlemen!
Welcome to the Kultuurikatel, a century-old power plant that used to burn oil shale. Up until the early nineties. These days, it runs on ideas. This building has transformed into something that was not part of the original design brief. And that’s exactly why it’s a fitting venue for us today.
Because we’re here to discuss change. Transition. Potential. The future of our lives in a world shaped by technologies more powerful — than any we have seen. Unlike the pipes and pots we see in this building, artificial intelligence and the data it consumes are invisible. Their impacts are not. We must understand what we want these tools to do. What they can and should do. We must also understand what they shouldn’t.
In the performance, we saw a 10-year-old girl. Let’s ask
ourselves: What will the world look like when she grows up? Will her life be better because of our decisions? Or will she have to clean up the mess her parents’ generation made… that WE made?
Tallinn Digital Summit is about guiding inspired and responsible technological change. Last year, the leaders of the European Union were in this very building, discussing ways to help Europe adapt to digital change. I am glad to say, with vice president Ansip among us, that we have made a big step toward creating a digital single market, in investments, trade, and artificial intelligence.
The Estonian experience in building a digital society taught us that it’s not really about technology. Sure, it is the key character that sets off a series of events. But in the main focus of this particular story are mindset and culture. We must not ignore them. Governments need to provide them with attention, time and space to develop and grow. For that, we need trust – something that’s hard to find these days.
Trust must be written in laws that are simple and understandable. Our citizens and our businesses are held back by legal complexity and confusion. Clarity and trust grow on openness and transparency. Only then can our societies hope to have the
flexibility and wisdom that technological changes require.
We must also build a more grown-up relationship with technology. Of course it can be overwhelming. Nano this and AI that — it’s a magical trip! Still, technology is a tool. A means to an end. What’s our endgame? Let’s try to keep that in mind.
We are here to discuss the next step in the digital transition – the implementation of artificial intelligence around the world over the next decade. I am quite aware that also a government can easily become an outdated legacy system. This power plant in 1913? Modern and amazing. Today? Limestone and rusted metal unfit for original purpose.
We need to upgrade the way governments work. So we don’t become an old power plant that’s unable to cope with progress. Governments — and governance — need to transition to an adaptive and resilient architecture. Something that grows in tune with the rest of society. Estonia may be a digital pioneer. But we’re still at the very beginning of this story — although a strategy is taking shape. People’s expectations change faster than governments. We are users, 24/7. So we need a user-centric view on governance. We’re only beginning to tackle what it could mean in real life. Done right, it would be a great upgrade to democracy.
How do we get there? Step by step. We need to define the desired outcome. What would user-centric governance look like? Then we define the engineering problem: How do we get there? Experience has shown that cyber security is the foundation.
Fundamental for democracy, skills, economy, and trade. The economy enables billions of people, businesses, and — looking ahead — smart machines to act as agents of change. They must have a clear legal environment to run smoothly. In Estonia, for example, we’re writing a law that would rule human-algorithm relationships. We call it the KRATT law and I’m sure it’ll come up today.
Next up is the skills transition. Earlier this year, Jack Ma said it best, “We should not teach our children to compete with robots.” Otherwise, robots will win. Instead, we need to change the industrial model of education. It must become personal and individual. Technology can help us.
Then there is trade. Free-flowing data is the bloodstream of the global economy. Individual privacy is critical here. One country cannot devise the engineering solution for these challenges. It has to be global, led by countries that care about the free world. For reasons I outlined, data and artificial intelligence are the highlight of this summit. Their security, their role in our economic transition, and in governance. You are the best and the brightest. You all have ideas and plans for AI. So let’s hear about them. Let’s share and coordinate. The world is global, after all.
Thank you everyone, our knowledge partners – the Centre for Public Impact, the European Centre for International Political Economy, the McKinsey Global Institute and the Lisbon Council.
And thank you, Mari-Liis and Annika, two brave women who organized this event and our wonderful dinner last night.
Let’s make this a successful day.