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Estonia is making its internal government testbed free to use

One of the world’s most digitally advanced governments is opening up its tech stack, expertise, and live-testing environment

Estonia is lifting the lid on its technology secrets through free access to its internal testing environment, with innovators invited to apply to trial new ideas and systems to improve public services.

The Digital Testbed Framework is a collaborative programme that seeks to attract partners from around the world, giving startups, scale-ups and public sector innovators access to the technologies and expertise of the Estonian government. 

Estonia, widely considered one of the most digitally advanced governments in the world, will grant successful applicants access to the government tech stack, internal expertise and datasets that power its own digital services. 

“The problem many startups face today is that the environment for cooperation the public sector is built on is old, outdated and inflexible and this makes integration and collaboration difficult,” said Estonia’s CIO Siim Sikkut.

“As the saying goes, ‘there’s no need to reinvent the wheel,’ and that’s why we’re inviting anyone and everyone to use the same tech stack we use to run and build our own digital government, for free.

“We want to partner with innovative people from all over the world and in a variety of sectors. Whether you’re a coder wanting help improve the digital services of Estonia, or an entrepreneur looking to test your solution with one of the most digitally advanced nations in the world - we’d love to connect with you.”

Innovators can take advantage of access to the nation’s tech stack, as well as live-market testing through the nationwide testbed, to trial commercial government-level IT systems without needing to overcome regulatory hurdles. The Estonian government will also “rubber stamp” ideas and help participants develop a successful proof-of-concept.

As a result, the Estonian government will expect to gain use of the new platforms or systems developed through the use of the Digital Testbed Framework free-of-charge.

Estonia has developed a portfolio of digital public services over the last 20 years, including a suite of e-services as well as deploying blockchain technology for use in government registries since 2012.

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The testbed, which is the bedrock of the government’s digital ambitions, has been used by the Estonian parliament and the Ministry of Education and Research to collaborate on reusable AI components, for example. The Estonian Health Board has also used it to create an official COVID-19 exposure notification app during the pandemic. 

The programme’s organisers are inviting businesses from any sector to take part, although businesses most likely to benefit from this will be those looking to use more advanced and modern digital tools. 

Previous projects have included elements of AI, chatbot functionality, speech recognition, text analytics and language translation. However, the Estonian government claims it’s open to hearing any ideas that “raise the bar”. 

Prospective participants can apply to join the programme free of charge until 10 October 2021.

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