Earlier this year, Cybernetica signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Papua New Guinea Department of Information and Communications Technology. The goal of the Memorandum is to develop further cooperation in e-governance technologies, starting from secure data exchange and interoperability.
To understand the full scale of this cooperation let’s wind back a little bit. Estonia, one of the three Baltic countries, nested firmly between Finland and Russia, has been revolutionising e-governance since the early 2000s. This nation-wide IT savviness has translated beyond the governmental sector and resulted in a huge influx of startups: 7 unicorns in a country with less than 1,5 million people.
Cybernetica is the successor of the applied research unit of the Institute of Cybernetics of the Academy of Sciences of Estonia, established in 1960. Today, they are mostly known for development of Estonia's e-Estonia X-Road and Internet voting system. Moreover, Cybernetica has created numerous information systems of the Estonian Tax and Customs Board, Police and Boarder Guard. The infamous X-Road is now distributed under the brand name of Unified eXchange Platform. The platform is in use in Japan, the USA, Ukraine, Denmark, and Tunisia.
With Papua New Guinea, a new milestone has been reached. We caught up with Cybernetica’s business development consultant Kevin Tammearu to talk about future perspectives and what it takes to secure international partnerships of such magnitude. “With a long-term partnership in mind, our first goal is to develop their data exchange platform, which will be based on the Unified eXchange Platform. They have been very eager to adopt new technologies on a governmental level in recent years, digitalisation is a huge priority for them. For us, it marks a multimillion euro business potential,” said Kevin shortly after signing the Memorandum and meeting his partners for the first time in real life during EXPO 2020.
Cybernetica’s and Papua New Guinea’s story takes back to the early days of the pandemic. The initial contact was established during an industry conference and developed into a string of consulting sessions on e-governance. It all starts from laying the foundation by introducing the possibilities and enforcing the right mindset in various people at the institution. Every important decision maker has to be on board and understand the philosophy behind e-governance. To build trust and allocate potential pressure points, Cybernetica organised various free workshops on data exchange, digital identity and even conducted a small audit to assess their readiness for further digitalisation.
When asked about the competitive advantage compared to neighbouring Australia, Kevin thinks e-Estonia’s brand goes a long way and the know-how is applicable across the globe and size plays little role here.
But how do you find the right people, especially within a young democracy where rotation is higher than usual? “It’s very common for people to change positions. Therefore, it’s important for us to establish a wide network of contacts. It all starts from a single person within a relevant governmental body and you build from there. A lot of desktop research is involved: finding key people and institutions, looking at their agendas and problems. This way we’re able to predict the best tone to address them and offer practical solutions. Differentiate between decision makers based on authority and those based on influence – both play significant, yet different roles in the process. Also, you should never underestimate the cultural differences. Yes, numerous aspects like security and privacy are applicable to most countries, but there are cultural and historical differences we have to consider,” adds Kevin.
Essentially, it comes down to extensive investigation. You gather and analyse as much data as possible. Who are the right decision makers? What’s the hierarchy? Kevin recommends using a CRM tool like Salesforce which is good for storing and visualising the data.