This still happens when people ask me where Skype’s offices are based.
“Tallinn?” Yes, in Estonia. “Ah, yes. It once belonged to Russia”
I blogged briefly about Tallin after my short visit there, impressed by their new office and shop buildings. About Tallinn catching up with modern times.
As one of the the three Baltic republics who regained their independence in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Estonia has managed to put itself on the edge of far more than just geography. The tiny nation of 1.36 million was the first former Soviet republic to introduce its own currency, and the first European country to adopt a flat tax system, now widely copied in the rest of Eastern Europe. It has also become one of the most technologically advanced places on the planet. You can use your mobile phone to pay for parking your car, buy bus tickets and check your children's school grades. More than 80% of taxpayers file their declarations online, wi-fi hot spots are ubiquitous — and free — and Skype which was acquired last year by eBay for $2.6 billion. That amount is slightly more than the annual output of the entire Estonian economy 15 years ago.The economy, once a basket case, is now one of Europe's most dynamic, racing along at a 12% growth clip — faster than China. Estonia is one of only two new European Union members to have a budget surplus, and its national debt will have all but disappeared by the end of the decade.
The country’s true innovative edge is believed to have more to do with the willingness of the public to use technology than with any particular national skill at developing it. Estonians are fast early adopters and very good at getting innovation to work. For example, the whole financial system leapfrogged into electronic banking in the mid-1990s, bypassing all messy dealings with checks and other paper transactions. And the government has done its best to boost computer literacy, including running free two-day classes that have been attended by 100,000 people.
Sunday, October 22, 2006