Alar Karis, the president of Estonia, has shown interest in being a part of the transformation and development story of the Kingdom. Estonia is keenly watching the rapidly changing Saudi Arabia.
In an interview with Arab News that was conducted on Saturday in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, Karis stated: “We follow very closely what’s happening in Saudi Arabia, especially about women’s rights and the (social) reforms and everything.”
He said Estonia went through a similar transformative reform journey 30 years ago. “It’s not that long ago. So, we have some experience (and) we can share that with Saudi Arabia.”
Karis referred to Estonia’s success in ushering in a digital transformation, as well as its adoption of new technologies and innovative solutions to today’s many challenges — something he believes the Kingdom can replicate.
“Saudi Arabia is really developing in that sense and taking a No. 1 position, I would say, in this region. We want to be part of this transformation.”
A Saudi delegation from its digital transformation authority visited Estonia recently to explore the possibility of learning from the Estonian template. So, was there any formal agreement between the countries on this front, or how Estonia can help Saudi Arabia in its digital transformation?
“We can share our expertise. We are already present in Arabia, I mean, in Oman, where one of our companies is really trying to assist in developing certain public systems. (The same can) apply to Saudi Arabia because e-governance is really our key issue and we have developed quite a lot in this field. So, this is something we can offer,” Karis said.
“And also, like Saudi Arabia, we are going through a green transition. So, that means we are trying to get rid of shale oil, just as you are trying to reduce reliance on oil and gas. So, we are on the same page. And digital solutions will help us in reaching these goals.”
Estonian companies are already working in the Saudi high-tech megacity NEOM, he said.
“Yes, there are some, yes. And that’s why I’m saying it would be nice if we can come to Saudi Arabia with a business delegation, and really start writing different MoUs and start working, because it’s a region that does interest also small countries like Estonia.”
Since Estonia is a stable and relatively untapped territory, what would his advice be to Saudi investors, such as the Public Investment Fund, or private investors?
“Digital sector and e-governance. Estonia is a country of startups. There are so many startups and 10 unicorns, which is also, maybe, something to learn from us. But, of course, most of all, it’s important that you have certain rules and regulations, and have trust on that. Because we started with our digital, but we did trust our government, we did trust our banks. That’s why we made our ID card compulsory, so everybody has this ID card, and that’s basically the backbone of our progress in that field.”
The detailed interview also discussed Ukraine, Russia and regional developments.