Change for Development
Amsterdam, February 8, 2022– Since I received one of the most beautiful assignments of my lavish and excessively rich entrepreneurial and journalistic career from the then-Governor of the CBvS, Gilmore Hoefdraad in August 2013, I have been visiting Estonia on a very regular basis.
I feel at home there, especially because I can satisfy my hunger and curiosity for Digital Transformation in this country undisturbed and without limits.
I want to learn from the successes and failures of the most digitally progressive country in the world.
There aren’t many countries that do better than us in the field of digital government than we do,” says Marten Kaets, while visiting the capital Tallinn in my sixth year.
He is a direct adviser to the president, but no expensive cars, or helicopters, nor expensive clothes or expensive watches to impress. Just his brains.
Estonia has been leading the dance around e-governance for almost twenty-five or thirty years now.
And I want to gain and get access to the knowledge and see whether it can be applied in Suriname.
August 2013 the start of the Change for Development project with eyesonsuriname.com as spearhead. So thanks to Hoefdraad, who forced me to terminate our agreement prematurely due to non-payment of my invoices.
The idea behind this was Suriname as a Digital turntable between South America – with my 25+ years working experience in Brazil and 15+ years in North America, working in New York in the journalism and media entrepreneurial world.
Not so long ago, when Estonia was still a poor and a very underdeveloped country, it started operating paperless within the government itself. That simple.
Civil servants and ministers had to add notes to meeting documents on tablets.
For example, there could never be multiple versions of one document. As early as 2002, the country introduced an electronic identity card, which people can use to identify themselves both offline and online. An Estonian never has to make an appointment with the municipality to renew his driver’s license, because he simply does that online. He also votes online and does his tax return in a matter of minutes.
In Tallinn, I spoke often and regularly with Siim Sikkut, Estonia’s most senior digital official and chief innovation officer. ‘We are looking at whether we can join forces as leaders in Europe and the world to learn from each other’s projects. And the failures too, maybe.’
The government in Tallinn is less afraid to loosen the reins, Knops sees. ‘People are a bit more free here in the political culture when it comes to experimenting with IT projects. In this way Estonia creates an entire industry plus a scientific world in which this thinking in terms of creative solutions is stimulated.’Suriname can benefit from the Change for Development project launched in Paramaribo.
It can gain expertise and knowledge in the field of legislation, because the discussion about online fundamental rights, for example, is ‘running much deeper’ anywhere in the world. My idea for Hoefdraad was therefore to bring officials from both countries together and to connect them.
A crucial philosophy of Estonia is that the citizen is both the owner and the boss and owner of their own data. At any time, an Estonian can log in to the digital government website — a single point of contact — to see who can view their data.
He can also sound the alarm if an authority with whom he has nothing to do is still rummaging through his files. After the enthusiasm of the early period, the Change for Development project with eyesonsuriname has been discontinued, but the thread has been picked up with enthusiasm. It remains to be seen to what extent it can be introduced in Suriname.
We may not have gotten that far yet, but I think that’s a very interesting mindset.
This is based on transparency and accountability as a government for what you do.
The striking thing about Estonia is that, that alone inspires confidence.
In practice, it appears that citizens in Estonia do not often make use of the option.
The fact that you can control it makes you trust the government more.
An idea for Paramaribo?
Anton JieSamFoek, owner eyesonsuriname