Jersey is making a renewed push to work with Estonia to drive forward its e-government credentials - with a visit from the country's ambassador to the United Kingdom last week lauded as a key step forward.
Viljar Lubi came to the island for the very first time on Thursday and met Government Chief Executive Suzanne Wylie and several ministers – including Chief Minister Kristina Moore, Deputy Chief Minister Kirsten Morel and External Relations Minister Philip Ozouf.
On Friday Mr Lubi spoke at Digital Jersey’s Annual Review event about what the Island could learn from his country, which has moved 99% of its public services online – including electronic voting.
It is not the first time that Jersey has attempted to develop its digital links with Estonia - in 2016, former ambassador Lauri Bambus visited, though the new partnership was somewhat overshadowed by news that taxpayers had footed the bill for a private jet Mr Bambus and his colleagues after their flight out of Jersey was cancelled.
A delegation including representatives from Digital Jersey, C5 Alliance, JT, and the Health Department also visited Estonia that year to see how the government had used technology to reduce costs and improve services.
Digital Jersey Chief Executive Tony Moretta said that the organisation had "lost contact" with its Estonian connections during the pandemic, acknowledging that it was not the first time an ambassador had visited the Island to discuss potential projects.
Pictured: Digital Jersey CEO Tony Moretta.
However, he said Jersey still had an opportunity to learn from "the best example of digital government".
"We've had a previous ambassador here in the past, we've had trips from government and Digital Jersey to Estonia in the past as well. I think, especially with Covid and things like that, we have lost contact on some of the projects we were looking to work together on – about how Jersey can learn from what [Estonia] has done on digital government," he continued.
"We are a long way behind, but the advantage we have in Jersey is that we can be nimble, we can be agile and learn from the best examples out there – and Estonia really is the best example of digital government."
In 2020, Islanders were given the option to file their personal income tax online instead of using a paper form.
However, Mr Moretta said that having a "proper digital ID" and developing digital health systems were some of the areas upon which the government could focus.
"With only 100,000 people I personally think we could emulate the Estonians and have a single citizens' registry with all that data. So you only have to tell one government department that you changed your address once, for example, or a bit of information about something and that goes right through the whole system.
"Digital health as well – we published our digital health strategy over six years ago, there's still a long way to go on that," he added, noting that 98% of Estonian prescriptions were sourced online.
"I would say digital health, the administrative interaction with government and a proper digital ID are really important."
Mr Lubi said that during his visit he had many meetings with "all the leaders, management teams and politicians who would like to understand more about what can be done and how we can do it together".
"I think one issue is always how you can make peoples' lives simpler, easier and more efficient. Our experience in Estonia is that by building up e-government you don't help the government, you help the people," he added.
He also said the government should "definitely" focus on digitalising services.
"Jersey's economy is doing so well that the biggest shortcoming is that you don't have enough people. Let's say that you have a service with long queues – mostly it's because different departments cannot employ enough people.
"The thing is, if you cannot increase supply then you have to reduce demand," he added, pointing out that automation would "reduce the demand for more people in the public sector".
"We have the same thing because Estonia is a small country – 1.4 million [people]. So if you cannot increase supply, reduce demand – especially in the public sector."
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