JERSEY should prioritise digitalisation of public services to solve recruitment issues and reduce waiting times, according to the Estonian ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Viljar Lubi, made the comments shortly after speaking at Digital Jersey’s Annual Review event, where he discussed what the Island could learn from his country about developing a digital economy and e-government. Estonia ranks number one in the world for digital public services.
The ambassador, who arrived in the Island on Thursday, also met government chief executive Suzanne Wylie and several ministers – including Chief Minister Kristina Moore, Deputy Chief Minister Kirsten Morel and External Relations Minister Philip Ozouf.
‘I have been invited here by Digital Jersey and the Government of Jersey, so today and yesterday I had many meetings with all the leaders, management teams and politicians who would like to understand more about what can be done and how we can do it together,’ he said.
‘I think one issue is always how you can make people’s lives simpler, easier and more efficient. Our experience in Estonia is that by building up e-government you don’t help the government, you help the people.’
In Estonia, 99% of public services are available online – including electronic voting.
Mr Lubi said the Island’s government should ‘definitely’ be focusing on digitalising services.
‘Jersey’s economy is doing so well that the biggest shortcoming is that you don’t have enough people. Let’s say that you have a service with long queues – mostly it’s because different departments cannot employ enough people.
‘The thing is, if you cannot increase supply, then you have to reduce demand,’ he added, pointing out that automation would ‘reduce the demand for more people in the public sector’.
‘We have the same thing, because Estonia is a small country – 1.4 million [people]. So if you cannot increase supply, reduce demand – especially in the public sector.’
Tony Moretta, the chief executive of Digital Jersey, said the Island had ‘an analog public sector in many ways’.
‘We’ve had a previous ambassador here in the past, we’ve had trips from government and Digital Jersey to Estonia in the past as well. I think, especially with Covid and things like that, we have lost contact on some of the projects we were looking to work together on – about how Jersey can learn from what [Estonia] has done on digital government,’ he continued. We are a long way behind, but the advantage we have in Jersey is that we can be nimble, we can be agile and learn from the best examples out there – and Estonia really is the best example of digital government.’
In 2020, Islanders were given the option to file their personal income tax online instead of using a paper form.
Mr Moretta said that having a ‘proper digital ID’ and developing digital health systems were some of the areas upon which the government could focus.
‘With only 100,000 people, I personally think we could emulate the Estonians and have a single citizens’ registry with all that data. So you only have to tell one government department that you changed your address once, for example, or a bit of information about something and that goes right through the whole system.
‘[There is] digital health as well – we published our digital health strategy over six years ago; there’s still a long way to go on that,’ he added, noting that 98% of Estonian prescriptions were sourced online.
‘I would say digital health, the administrative interaction with government and a proper digital ID are really important.’