I am representing a country where I can buy and sell a car on my way to the airport, fill and sign my tax declaration in 3 minutes, register the birth of my child online and sign official letters digitally. If I go for a walk and decide by the beautiful lake that I would like to go fishing (such thought would only come to my mind once in every 5 years), I would send a text message to a relevant number, make a mobile payment with my cell phone and receive a license to fish valid for 24 hours with a sms. I can be spontaneous and I can legally start fishing in one hour. I love my country and my e-way of life. I am frustrated when I need to sign 4 copies of paper to order something. I am frustrated if I need to use months to go through bureaucratic steps to finalize the documentations and wait for license plates after buying a car. Because I know, that such a bureaucracy is avoidable and my digital signature could be valid all over the EU.
We have a “once-only principle” in Estonia. If any of the public institutions already has the information regarding my DOB, then they should not ask it again. How many times in your life you have been asked to bring a birth certificate, a marriage certificate etc. to a public office?
The former President of Estonia Mr. Toomas Hendrik Ilves once said that it is easier to ship a bottle of olive oil from Sicily to the Arctic Circle than to send an iTunes’ song across a border. It is high time to change that. E-commerce generates EUR 500 billion per year in the European Union and is an important complement to offline trade, while providing consumers with greater choice, especially in remote areas, and SMEs with new opportunities — according to European Parliament report towards a Digital Single Market Act. According to McKinsey, in 2014 alone, cross-border data flows generated $2.8 trillion in economic value exceeding the value of global trade in goods.
We need to identify and dismantle barriers affecting e-commerce in order to build a genuine cross-border e-commerce market. The Single Digital Market is all about that. It is about creating opportunities, new innovative cross-border online services and removing barriers between Member States. Creating a digital cross-border market is the key for growth and employment. If we do not succeed in this and have fragmented digital market with 28 sets of different rules, we lose bright ideas and many creative startups, as these move to US.
Estonians have realized early the potential benefits that getting things done online could offer the public sector and even more importantly to our citizens. Estonia has proudly been a pathfinder in building digital society and government: boldly trying out new technology and services.
This is the reason why during our Presidency, Estonia will focus on the free movement of data on the EU level, cross-border e-commerce, development of e-services for consumer, manufacturer and businesses. We would also like to promote the e-governance, initiate a debate over a data management system where consumers have more say about how “their” data is used introduce co-ownership of data and implement the once-only principle in the whole Europe.
If people, goods, services and capital can move within the European Union without limitations, why cannot the same apply also to data? Consider the boost it would give to innovation-driven startups!
We know that trust and security are important cornerstones of a Digital Single Market. We aim to make progress on the Regulation on e-Privacy and complete the negotiations with the European Parliament on EU internal data protection rules. We also look forward to the renewal of the EU Cyber Security strategy. We have planned around 45 events and meetings directly or indirectly related to digital topics during our 6 months of Presidency.
As stated in the Rome Declaration, it is essential for Europe to embrace technological change to ensure a prosperous and sustainable Europe. Treating data as the fifth freedom and having a fully functioning Single Digital Market will not be the reality by the end of Estonian presidency, but hopefully we will kick-start an important future-looking debate.
I am fully confident that the future of Europe will be digital!
Celia Kuningas –Saagpakk, Ambasciatore Straordinario e Plenipotenziario in Italia, Malta e San Marino