By Daniel Munizubau
In an era where economy is feeble, and politics are changing at unprecedented levels; society is repeatedly poised with the question if whether or not there is a universal formula for a country’s success. Is there actually a specific route that a leader could follow in order to guide a nation towards economic realization and societal stability and political steadiness? The answer is simple and it is a hard cold NO. We do have the recipe for a perfect utopia, and it would be glorious to live in such state; nevertheless we face another reality. All countries have different circumstances, cultural predispositions, and realities. Having said that, there are, however, certain elements that can increase a country’s probability to excel.
During his speech at the Concordia Summit in New York, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves emphasized on the policies implemented by his government being mainly the promotion of technological advancement and education at an early age. Now, according to the World Bank, Estonia’s 2010 primary school enrollment rate was 99 percent, and by 2050 Estonia can be the most productive country of the European Union as concluded in the report by the Centre d’Etudes Prospectives et d’Informations Internationales (CEIIP). These figures unquestionably give positive insight for the results of its set policies, but the question remains again in the procedures that must be taken to achieve high levels of development and economic health.
Education and investment in young people are some of the main elements that form part of the mathematical equation for proper development to take place. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, progress was stunted and the rebuilding of a new Estonia was essential. By promoting new policies, education started at a very early age, teaching children computer programming at the first grade, and a second language at second grade. As President Toomas articulated very eloquently, IT infrastructure is the core of development for any country, as it is now for Estonia. It becomes a cycle that unwinds exponentially pouring its effects into every sector of the country. A country with high levels of education translates into a country of high levels of productivity, success, and economic prosperity. In the words of the Estonian President, “it just does not get any simpler than that”.
Digital signature law has been one of the policies set in place in order to make business easier. Instead of signing checks for each and every employee at a company, computers do it for the managers. This increases both efficiency and effectiveness and incentivizes the private sector by creating mechanisms that reduce business processes in general. Contract signing between two or more business partners no longer has the restriction of physically traveling to a specific location, therefore, stimulating growth and business promotion in Estonia. For the past 20 years, 98 percent of bank transactions have been completed online, creating an atmosphere of ease and swiftness. These and many other entrepreneurial-friendly tools are what have placed this country as one of the most capital attractive nations in the EU and this has been by reducing bureaucracy and limitations in the business process.
It must be noted, however, that President Toomas underlined one key element and this was cyber security. Technological globalization is a rather tough task to keep up to speed with, but it is of paramount importance in today’s ever changing world. Intranet security must be of capital priority for the sake of both government and the citizens, using as an example the outbreaks of intelligence from the National Security Agency in the United States and the abuse of privacy rights. When an event like this happens, it creates a sentiment of distrust, and a culture of disbelief. Little by little, consumer trust for online purchases decreases, people are less inclined to do business electronically, and by starting this ripple effect, society becomes disenchanted with how they feel about security, privacy, and how the system works as a whole. Once the culture of belief is breached, corruption suppositions grow, and when a game field of inequality is set or thought of, the government, public, and private sector evolve into a no longer reliable environment giving room to corruption. It unleashes a chain reaction, leading to the destruction of all the efforts and investment done in the country since the start. This will not occur over night, but if not diligently resolved, results would be harmful for the state.
All in all, Estonia’s success is not to be used as a specific recipe in other countries for as mentioned before, no country has the same exact conditions, circumstances, or realities. Nevertheless, the main elements that are always common denominators for development are investment in education, technological advancement, and investment in the young people. These are the seeds that grow into a prosperous country, allowing economic stability, higher standards of living, and effective government. How effectively government applies its policy is what will determine the extent to which success will be attained. Estonia’s example is most certainly one to follow, but not imitate.