The plane slowly descended over the Baltic Sea and eventually landed on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland. I walked into the Tallinn International Airport in Estonia, and the inbound corridor leading to the baggage area was hung in the air, and I could see the waiting hall facing the exit. I saw a few treadmills and bench press barbells in the waiting hall, which seemed to be a gym rather than an important hub for the country.
Everything is in order, and the airport guards are not polite, but speak fluent English. I showed the invitation letter on the mobile phone and the organizer’s email communication record, and it took me a while to get through. The guard looked at my mobile phone and said with pride: “We are an electronic nation.” In Estonia, most immigration procedures can be completed with a mobile phone.
This is Estonia. A small Baltic country with a population of just over 1.3 million, facing Finland across the sea, bordering Russia with Russia, but ahead of Latvia and Lithuania, has become the most developed country among the “Baltic Three Little Tigers”. Today, Estonia is known as “the Silicon Valley of Europe”, and the IT industry and Internet companies have become the core competitiveness of the country.
Fast, accurate, and embarrassing: the return to life in Estonia
The Soviet Union disintegrated in the early 1990s, and Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania became new countries on the map of Europe. In the first few years, Estonia’s economic situation has been very bad, and there are almost no commodities on the supermarket shelves except vodka.
After the independence of Estonia in 1992, the 32-year-old historian Mart Laar without any historical and political burden became the first elected prime minister of Estonia. Lal cabinet can be said to be the youngest ruling team in the world at that time. The foreign minister who entered the Lal cabinet was only 26 years old. He was also stopped by security guards when attending the summit abroad. It is too unbelievable to be a minister. It is.
The newborn calf is not afraid of the tiger. The Lar government in the middle right does not hesitate to implement shock therapy. The strength is even stronger than that of other Eastern European countries, and Lal does not listen to the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund. “Do not do it now, regret it later” is Lal’s ruling motto.
Since 1992, Lal has not hesitated to slash the five axes of reform: tax reform, judicial reform, census of state assets, privatization, and electronicization. The Lal government first enforced a single tax, and all nationals’ income tax was 20%. This policy of benefiting the middle class quickly attracted a lot of foreign investment to Estonia. On the issue of privatization, Lal believed that judicial reform should be carried out first. And the census of state-owned assets, privatization on the basis of fairness and openness, can avoid the problem of illegal embezzlement of state-owned assets in other Eastern European countries.
The reforms that Lale Regent has been popular with have not encountered much social rebound. An important reason is that Estonia’s national character is: the reason is simple and feasible, and it will be implemented if you figure it out. Estonian people have a low level of hierarchy. They are generally a flat society. During the Soviet era, the gap between Estonian officials and civilians was not deep. The privatization on the basis of justice has become the consensus of the whole people. Therefore, reform can drive the road.
“Baltic Tiger”: EU Electronic Data Security Center
The long-distance bus departs from the capital Tallinn and continues to the south. Along the way, the blue sky and the green earth extend infinitely beyond, and the four-hour drive has reached the border between Estonia and Latvia. This trip to the country saw no more than 10 people in the field from start to finish.
In this country where the population of the country is less than Manchester, the city crosses the north and south. From the airport to the tourist bus, the WiFi is uninterrupted along the way, and the speed is very fast. Even if you don’t buy a European card, you can feel the Internet. Seamless docking also confirms that Estonia is an “electronic nation.”
The Estonian Constitution stipulates that unrestricted online browsing is the basic human right of all citizens of Estonia. The last axe of the Lal government’s “reform of the five axes” is to implement the national policy of electronicization. After leaving the Soviet Union, Estonia still inherits the complete and strict mathematical education system of the Soviet era. Even the former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves is himself a computer programming expert. This was greatly utilized by the Lal government and became the biggest breakthrough for Estonia to catch up with Western European countries.
In 1996, when Estonia’s economic reforms were in a quagmire, Lal allowed all primary school classes in Estonia to be equipped with computers. In 1999, all primary and secondary schools in Estonia achieved Internet coverage, and the school’s computer classrooms continued to open during the after school hours. People use Internet resources that were scarce at the time. Primary school students in Estonia began to learn programming from the age of seven, and form a basic programming thinking when they graduated from elementary school. Beginning in 2012, Estonian elementary school students must learn robotics in addition to programming.
In Estonia, using the Internet to do things is deeply rooted in the hearts of the people. Today, Estonia is a veritable “electronic nation”: electronic elections, electronic politics, electronic schooling, electronic tax filing, electronic parking… Every Estonian citizen has a unique electronic signature that is linked to the identity of each citizen. After using a mobile phone or a computer to connect to the Internet, Estonian citizens can go through the relevant Internet business by simply inserting a USB flash drive with an electronic signature.
Everything is done online, isn’t personal data easily monitored and monitored by the authorities? In fact, Estonia also legislates that Estonian citizens can find out who has viewed their taxes and voting records. Once an official is found to have logged into a citizen’s online account without a valid reason, the official will be subject to criminal proceedings and will face imprisonment after being guilty.
This is the hot spot of the Internet, which made the small Estonia produce a lot of amazing results. In just 20 years, it has jumped from the poor and the white to the top of the “Baltic Three Little Tigers”. In 2004-2007, Estonia’s GDP growth rate was close to 10%, making it the fastest growing European country.
Skype, the popular chat software in the world, is actually a product of Estonia. Although Skype has been acquired by Microsoft, there are still more than 4,000 technicians working for this chat software in the Estonian headquarters. In the capital city of Tallinn, Internet companies and makers are all over the streets, making this ancient medieval Lufthansa League city “the digital capital of Europe.”
However, in 2007, the Internet in Estonia was attacked by a large number of hackers. The networks of the government, hospitals, banks and schools were completely paralyzed, and the country was at a standstill for a time. There is a lot of evidence that this wave of Internet attacks is done by Russian government personnel and hackers. Estonia is not only the frontier of NATO forces’ confrontation with Russia in the Baltic Sea, but also the front line of the “data battlefield” between Europe and Russia.
In order to protect this NATO member country bordering Russia, the protection of Estonian electronic data security has become an important front for Western defense. The Estonian Ministry of Defence set up a programmer squad, and for the data storage of Estonia, the decentralization strategy of “Rabbit Three Caves” was used—Estonian electronic data did not have a central storage center, but was placed in several different locations in Europe.
Estonia: Low-profile Nordic countries
Estonian electronics is not going back. The country even launched the “e-citizen” program in 2014, allowing citizens of any country in the world to apply to become “Estonian e-citizens”. Being an “Estonian e-citizen” does not mean becoming a well-behaved Estonian, but can open a company and bank account in Europe through Estonian network facilities.
Estonia is also the country with the strongest entrepreneurial atmosphere in Europe. Thanks to a much lower tax rate and a free and equal social atmosphere, Tallinn, which faces Finland across the sea, has welcomed many American, Indian, German and British producers. Estonia on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea is becoming “ Silicon Valley in Europe”.
“We don’t admit that we are Eastern European countries, we are Nordic countries.” An Estonian retired teacher said to me while eating freshly picked strawberries. Indeed, as a member of the Nordic National Council, Estonia’s social development goals have moved in the Nordic direction. According to the latest Human Comprehensive Development Indicators (HDI), the Estonian Development Indicators rank among the top three in all former Eastern European member countries, ranking second only to Slovenia and the Czech Republic.
In a villa in the border town of Estonia, I attended a picnic invited by the host. The hostess asked everyone to go up the mountain to pick the wild fruit. In the grassy piles of the mountain trails, the Estonian girls took small berries like small fingers and put them in the basket. The aroma of the barbecue floated on the pile of grass, and the man who ran out of the sauna built in his own house was naked and threw himself into the cold pool next to it.
In the evening, people lit up the campfire, pulled up the accordion, and sang and danced around the fire. The summer sky in Estonia is still sunny until 22 o’clock. The life of the Estonian is both avant-garde and returning to the truth.