Aga Khan University organized “Digital Transformation of Estonia” in collaboration with CxO Global Forum & University of Central Asia
On Monday, May 30th, AKU’s Chief Information Officer, Shaukat Ali Khan, had the pleasure of hosting a special lecture by Toomas Hendrik Ilves, former President of Estonia (2006 – 2016). Mr. Ilves is famous for implementing bold and innovative policies that led to Estonia becoming a global leader in digital governance, especially in the areas of voting, banking, healthcare, transportation, and education.
Following his presidency, Ilves has actively worked to advance understanding of how technology can be used to improve lives and create a safer world. He co-chairs the Global Future Council on Blockchain Technology, which examines how blockchain technology can be used to enhance cybersecurity, and recently advised the World Health Organization on technological solutions to address the Covid-19 pandemic.
While Mr. Ilves delivered the lecture remotely, prominent CIOs from other leading companies in Pakistan participated from the Aga Khan University Hospital’s (AKUH’s) new Princess Zahra Pavilion as special guests.
The attending CIOs included: Ijlal Jafri, Martin Dow; Waseem Rasheed, Tapal Tea; Asad Bukhari, Pakistan International Airlines; Shahid Saeed, National Foods; and Atif Najam, Gatron.
During his lecture, Mr. Ilves shared his experiences spearheading Estonia’s Digital Transformation. He built on his familiarity with coding to explore innovative solutions to overcome a highly inefficient bureaucracy.
Using the example of registering a birth in Estonia, he described a colleague’s frustration at having to manually apply to numerous individual departments to register the birth of a child, a process that took weeks and involved significant frustration.
Digitization meant that as soon as a child was born, the hospital would enter it into the system, after which it would instantaneously be shared with every other relevant department so records would automatically be updated, expediting the entire process with no involvement from the parent.
This ethos to simplify the citizen experience has continued, to the point that even to file taxes, citizens usually just verify forms readily filled by the government. It is a process that is usually very involved in most countries takes mere minutes today for most Estonians.
Mr. Ilves emphasized the IT talent existing in Pakistan, highlighting that there were many brilliant Pakistanis working in Estonia’s IT sector. He also suggested building proprietary government systems. And he shared that many of Estonia’s systems are open source. Because these are free to share for the benefit of other nations.
The session drew many interesting questions from the audience. Questions came as to how a nation with low GDP per capita and limited exposure to computers managed to digitize. And Mr. Ilves shared Estonia’s solution of creating computer centers for the public to come and utilize the machines with assistance. So they could engage with the new digital governance systems.
He also indicated that the focus of digitization must be on the citizens. And what makes their lives easier, despite how tempting it is to initially pursue projects that make things easier for the government. As people notice and feel the benefits of digitization. As a result, there is a ‘halo effect’ that leads to greater adoption of other related digital services.
Most importantly, extolling the virtues and necessity of digitization, Mr. Ilves highlighted that Estonia only 30 years ago was a newly independent country with high levels of poverty and corruption. Today, it has a reputation as a digital leader with the most unicorns. (companies valued above US$ 1 billion) per capita in Europe. And the 6th lowest corruption level in the world, a startling achievement.
Likewise, it is a transformation journey upon which any country can embark if the willingness exists. AKU is on its own transformation journey. As it implements a globally leading Electronic Health Records (EHR) system across its hospitals. The purpose is to enhance the patient experience, care quality, and research capability.
In conclusion, AKU’s CIO, Shaukat Ali Khan, thanked Mr. Ilves for sharing his wisdom and experience with the audience. And he expressed his gratitude to all the participants. As well as the University of Central Asia (UCA) and the CxO Global Forum, for helping make the event possible.
You can click here to watch the whole session.