What would you like the youth of America to know?

Estonia is the birthplace of a wide range of IT solutions, including Skype and TransferWise. The constant use of such solutions has made life in our country very simple. We hold our national Song and Dance Celebrations every five years, which attract many locals and visitors alike; we have medieval towns and cities; and we boast a pristine -- and in its own way rather magical -- natural environment.

What they sent me:
Although the envelope was a bit beat up in the mail, the most comprehensive response I got was a big, wonderful package from Estonia during Toomas Hendrik Ilves' past presidency. It included a letter as well as a hardcover book and six magazines on life in Estonia. I was surprised to learn that Estonia is such a tech-savvy nation, maybe the most advanced in the world. They invented Skype and invest heavily in cutting-edge technology. In fact, they have roughly the same amount of entrepreneurs per capita as the United States.

According to The Economist: "In 2007 [Estonia] became the first country to allow online voting in a general election. It has among the world's zippiest broadband speeds and holds the record for start-ups per person. Its 1.3 million citizens pay for parking spaces with their mobile phones and have their health records stored in the digital cloud. Filing an annual tax return online, as 95 percent of Estonians do, takes about five minutes." Over 14,000 new companies were registerd in Estonia in 2011, as the government embraces the country's tech culture. Children begin to learn coding in gradeschool.

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Estonia's captial Tallinn is not only one of the top 10 digital cities in the world, it's also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Estonia features many natural wonders including a boiling spring called the Tuhala Witches' Well, soaring limestone cliffs, and enormous waterfalls.

Speech by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Intl Conference on Electronic Governance, September 26, 2011

"When Estonia reestablished its sovereignty after a half century of successive thuggish totalitarian foreign occupations by the Soviets, the Nazis and then again the Soviets, we knew we wanted to create a democratic country characterized by rule of law and respect for human rights... After the Soviet period we were also poor. Very poor...

This briefly encapsulates the real problem faced by a small country struggling to climb out of the ruins of totalitarian rule, poverty and general backwardness. Our fundamental existential question was, can a country as small as we make it?

My own personal answer to this, an answer I would begin pushing and push to this day, came from a reverse reading of a book. The book was The End of Work, by American economist Jeremy Rifkin. In that book Rifkin argued that computerization and automatization would lead to massive unemployment and impoverishment because people would no longer have jobs. Computers and machines would do it all for them. The argument was neo-Luddite and neo-Marxist. One example he brings in the book gave me my own "Aha" or Eureka moment.

Rifkin writes of a steel mill in Kentucky that produced x-amounts of steel with 12 thousand employees. After being bought by a Japanese company and automatized, the plant produced the same amount of steel with only 120 employees.

It was reading that, that convinced me how Estonia had to go. It had to computerize. Completely. For I realized reading Rifkin that actual size does not matter: functional size does. If 120 employees, through computerization and automatization were productively equivalent to 12 thousand, then Estonia stood a chance of making it in an increasingly globalized world if and only if we functionally were much larger than our numerical size."

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Official Name
The Republic of Estonia

Parliamentary Republic

Current Leader
Kersti Kaljulaid

• Kaljulaid is the first female
president of Estonia
• She won the vote 81-0 because
of her campaign of unity
• Just 47 years old, Kaljulaid was previously an accountant for
the European Union

Previous Leader
Toomas Hendrik Ilves

• Ilves is the son of war refugees
• Ilves graduated from Columbia
University in NYC & got a master's from the University of Pennsylvania

Recommended sites
Estonian Institute

Estonica - Encyclopedia of Estonia

Visit Estonia