Estonia calls on innovators to take its new Digital Testbed Framework for a spin

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A global call-out is giving startups, scale-ups and innovators from around the world the opportunity to work with one of Europe’s most innovative governing bodies.   

The Estonian Government is raising an amazing opportunity for companies worldwide to work with them. The collaboration gives companies and innovators the ideal testbed for their products without the usual hoops to jump through, and in return the Estonian Government has the opportunity to improve services or whatever other exciting new initiatives the partnerships may bring. 

The Digital Testbed Framework is a new and innovative collaboration model designed by the Estonian government. It aims to give startups, scale-ups and govtech innovators, access to the technologies that the state uses to build its own digital services.

The Government in the past has worked together with Estonian companies to develop solutions and it’s due to the success of these collaborations the Digital Testbed Framework came to life. 

“We started thinking about three years ago about how we could somehow have a legal framework for that,” says Siim Sikkut, Government CIO of Estonia. “Could we make it work, a bit more structured, systematically?” 

Users will have access to the government’s original tech stack to build new innovative web and mobile applications, as well as the opportunity to test it against a government framework and get proof of concept, before using it for their own commercial solutions. The Estonian Government gets the solution for free use, and it will be part of the publicly available source-code repository.

“If the outcome works, you’ll have a reference point and we’ll have the solution for free,” says Sikkut. “Now that we have a perfect legal arrangement, we thought, why don’t we invite partners from around the globe to come work with us?”

As the arrangement with the Estonian Government is made available for free, there are no contractual commitments or future obligations between the state and partners. Companies are free to sell their products elsewhere once developed.  

“We really give you a playground to build your ideas with us, that’s the arrangement,” says Sikkut.

The scope of ideas and proposals is unlimited provided they add value to Estonia whether it be a tech solution to compliment the Government, something to improve their service portfolio, simply something which will improve the life of the people or perhaps a Covid solution. No initial proposals are off the table.

“We have not built in any exclusions or anything like that,” says Sikkut. “We’ll agree on a roadmap with our future partner – and see that we reach the milestones along the way.”

“We have left the delivery quite open, but we are looking to see what we can deliver quickly enough. We don’t want to take years to come up with a concept because that’s how regular policy planning works. We’d rather build fast.”

If you are wondering, why Estonia, the better question would be: why not?

Estonia is considered one of the most innovative countries in Europe and boasts the continent’s highest number of unicorns per capita with the first unicorn Skype bringing video calling to everyday consumers since 2003. 

At Government level, Wired dubbed Estonia as the most digitally advanced society on the planet and that is proved by the fact 99% of the Government services are online. 

Some of the similar projects already completed before the Testbed Framework are Open-source speech recognition software by TalTech which is used by Estonian Parliament, HOIA – the official COVID-19 exposure notification app for Estonia, Texta by Texta OÜ – a text analytics tool used by the Ministry of Justice – and Neurotõlge, a translation engine developed by the University of Tartu.

If you feel like you have an idea or proposal for the Digital Testbed Framework, head over to their website here and hit the ‘apply now’ button to fill out the short application form. Applicants will be contacted shortly, and if you are successful, the collaboration will be up and running soon after.

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