My visit to Estonia: The digitalised nation

Digitalisation & innovation, 12.01.2017

ERGO CDO Mark Klein got to know a successful start-up incubator in Tallinn with colleagues from ERGO Baltics – and the comprehensive digital offers that the Estonian government has developed for its citizens. He reports on his impressions in our blog.

Tallinn – a wonderful medieval city on the Baltic, just 80 kilometres from Helsinki. Kestutis Bagdonavicius, CEO of ERGO Baltics, had invited me to Tallinn for an exchange of knowledge and ideas. I actively discuss with ERGO colleagues about the Start-up Camp (for which they have received an innovation prize), service applications and electronic document management. And we also think outside the box: we visit the Technical University of Tallinn at which every fourth student in Estonia studies. There, we are especially interested in the Mektory – an incubator for whose concept the university got several reputable companies enthusiastic about.

Supporting young start-ups

Here at ERGO, we support the idea of creating a home for young university spin-offs. Our success justifies this approach: various start-ups have already made the jump over the pond from here – recently a company which developed cyber security solutions, opened an office in San Francisco. I am impressed how deeply innovations are rooted in the minds of people: even 3rd grade students take part in ideas competitions for innovations!

The next day was my personal highlight of the visit: e-Estonia. The Estonian government has set itself the target of creating the most digitalised state on the planet – and it has been successful in this: every Estonian inhabitant has a passport that enables him or her to be digitally verified. It can be stored on a mobile phone SIM card, thereby providing a digital signature that is legally binding in Estonia. In conjunction with secure encryption, citizens can now fully digitally authenticate 99 percent of processes between them and the authorities.

Savvy digitalisation

The benefits are impressive: founding a company take around 18 minutes, drug prescriptions are electronically issued and can be immediately collected in a pharmacy around the corner. Elections can be fully digitally managed – a massive relief for Estonians living abroad. And the citizens are intensively taking advantage of this service: around every third vote in elections is now cast digitally. I am really inspired by e-Estonia – as the opportunities of digitalisation are used skilfully, comprehensively and systematically. I am sure that we still have a lot to hear from the digital leader Estonia.

Incidentally, there are still a few exceptions to processes, although not for technical reasons: Estonians still have to attend a registry office in person to avoid spontaneous or forced marriages. “Marry in haste, repent at leisure” – that also applies in times of digitalisation. e-Estonia therefore also shows that savvy digitalisation is never an end in itself, rather represents a higher aim.

I look forward to your comments, questions or suggestions.
Regards, Mark Klein

Author: Mark Klein

Mark Klein is Chief Digital Officer ERGO Group and Chairman of the Board of Management of ERGO Digital Ventures AG. Here you find Mark Klein on LinkedIn.

Your opinion
If you would like to share your opinion on this topic with us, please send us a message to

Related articles

Digitalisation & innovation 21.03.2017

My visit to Silicon Valley: Myth and reality

On Sunday afternoon, I got on the plane in Düsseldorf and touched down around 15 hours later in San Francisco. It really does feel like I'm on the other side of the world here. With it being winter time in Germany, the time difference is eight hours instead of the normal nine. Is it really worth it?

Digitalisation & innovation 25.04.2017

China: Innovations in a land full of contrasts

After my trips to Poland and Turkey this is now the third of our overseas subsidiaries I've visited. At long last I land in Peking after a 12 hour flight. I can't get over suddenly becoming illiterate – I can't even read the signs. My first impressions were mind-blowing.

Digitalisation & innovation 19.06.2017

HDFC ERGO: Innovations made in India

We’re taking another flight eastwards – this time to India. India, the world’s largest democracy has seen strong economic growth. The high-tech IT sector, in particular, has found its second home in India.