Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Living in E-stonia

Quite a few people become a bit dismissive when I tell them I now live in Tallinn.

For some reason the British in particular are particularly contemptuous. Some actually say that it is as though I am living in Trumpton or some other charming but ultimately pointless and irrelevant place, Ruritania perhaps. They seem to say that whatever pretensions Estonia may have, "its not a real place".

Then I point out a few home truths:

Estonia spends less than a fifth on health care per capita compared to the United Kingdom, but on virtually every measure it has better health care.

Estonia has complete freedom of information, with cabinet meetings broadcast through a web cam and all the paperwork of ministries a public document accessible on the Internet- no ignored "freedom of information" requests in Tallinn.

Free WiFi is practically universal- a point one takes for granted until asked for €10 to access the Internet in Copenhagen Airport.

Now Estonia is already moving onto the next generation of high speed broadband . This matches the fact that they already have DAB radio systems that are twice as efficient as the UK.

Estonia has already completed technological jumps that the UK can not contemplate for many years into the future. As a result my business functions at a level of efficiency that would require a far greater investment in equipment or people to function in Britain.

The level of education is one of the highest in the world, with scores in maths and literacy well above those of England and Wales. Knowledge of foreign languages is close to universal and it is usual for a degree educated Estonian to speak five languages fluently.

Meanwhile it is only the British stag parties that provide the spectacle of public drunkenness and violence which is such a nasty feature of any small town or city in the UK.

In many ways Estonia is the most politically Liberal country in the world, with both the leading party in the coalition and the leading party in the opposition both members of Liberal international, but it is also economically Liberal: it has a flat tax, a land tax and an open economy. It is also socially liberal, and private affairs are not the affairs of state.

As the sun blazes down on the red roofs of Tallinn's old town this morning, I idly wonder whether even Trumpton was such a pleasant place to live.

7 comments:

Jock Coats said...

...and the sort of ID Card I urged our working party to look at back in 2001 or whenever it was. I have a friend trying to establish a business there which is made so much easier by the ability of people to digitally sign contracts and so on online using the ID card.

Cicero said...

Yes it works well here, but the level of data security is about five orders of magnitude better than in the UK- security is built into the e-government structure and of course if someone tries to breach it, you find out immediately.

Until the UK takes these issues seriously it is hard to support a British ID card. Meanwhile $13.6 billion is wasted on an NHS information system that could have been done for a tenth the price simply using a network.

agentmancuso said...

For some reason the British in particular are particularly contemptuous. Some actually say that it is as though I am living in Trumpton or some other charming but ultimately pointless and irrelevant place, Ruritania perhaps. They seem to say that whatever pretensions Estonia may have, "its not a real place".You mean in exactly the same manner as British Nationalists dismiss Scotland?

ILLIBERAL DEMOCRATS said...

Might as well be given the numbers of folk from Eastern Europe in this country!

Eben Marks said...

What does that even mean?

Cicero said...

Hi eben, there are certainly a whole load of nutters who tend to engage keyboard without a single synapse firing.

Although irritating dealing with these dullards, I have found it is necessary otherwise the Internet is totally taken over by cretins.

Cicero said...

Welcome to the blog BTW