LAST_UPDATEWed, 18 Jul 2018 12pm

Governments Need To Keep Up With Digitalization: Former Estonia President

In the age of digitalization and rapidly changing technological advancement, governments need to take up the task of keeping up with the phenomenon in order to not lag behind, former Estonian President Toomas Ilves said on Wednesday (31/05) at the 2017 Summit of the International Transport Forum.

“Everything that is chip-based, or digital, will change faster than we thought. It is governance – policy, laws and regulations – that which governments and legislatures do, which often falls behind,” Ilves said during his keynote speech at the Summit.

Many existing legal foundations and regulatory frameworks in countries around the world today are still inadequate to meet the demands of new technologies, which can be seen in the case of ride-sharing services such as Uber – the service has been banned in some countries, including Taiwan and Italy, and is facing tough regulatory framework in other countries because of its perceived negative impact toward traditional taxis.

"Technologies have outpaced legislations and regulations that were enacted for a different world," Ilves said, referring to a period before smartphones, and other digital advancements that we enjoy today.

Ilves served as the President of Estonia from 2006 to 2016, and played a key role in driving the initiatives of the country’s e-governance and cyber security, for which it has been acknowledged as a world leader.

Today, Estonians enjoy easy, less-bureaucratic process in doing tasks such as filing taxes or voting.

According to Ilves, his country has, for decades, adopted the position that "the government should allow and foster the use of digital technology to make the lives of citizens less bureaucratic and cumbersome."

He added that the private sector needs to keep governments informed of developments in technology, as they are better informed in this area than the public sector due to the competitive nature of the private sector that allows for more responsiveness to technology.

Ilves also emphasized that governments need to "start devoting considerable attention to being digitally literate."

Governance of Transport

This year, the 2017 ITF Summit has adopted the theme "Governance of Transport," and highlighted how regulations can be managed and adopted in order to accommodate technological changes in transport.

"We are entering a period of radical need for good governance of transport. Transport is going through a major change. Several strong force fields are active at the same time," ITF secretary-general Jose Viegas said.

Viegas cited factors affecting future development of transportation all over the world, which includes technological innovation on power trains and automations, evolutions of consumer preferences, as well as international agreements on sustainable development goals and reduction of greenhouse gases.

Those changes may lead to various social disruptions, from cyber security, social disparities to job losses, and therefore requires a comprehensive and early approach from policymakers and regulators.

"Transport policy matters. Transport systems will undergo radical change in the next 10 to 15 years. New courses will arise. This is a big challenge for policy-making and governance must be better – we must raise the public profile of transport policy," Viegas said.

The International Transport Forum is an intergovernmental organization with 59 member countries within the OECD system. ITF’s Annual Summit, held in Leipzig, Germany, is the world’s largest gathering of transport ministers and a global platform for dialogue on transport policy.