Representatives of the European branch of Microsoft visited the Estonian Information System Authority (RIA) and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications to sign a cooperation agreement with Estonia.
‘The cooperation agreement provides an excellent opportunity for Estonia to use its excellence in development to create new and unique solutions for the ecosystem of Bürokratt and hopefully for wider use in the future as well,’ said Ott Velsberg, Government Chief Data Officer at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications. Velsberg emphasised that the developments created with Microsoft will be freely available to everyone. ‘It was important for us in the negotiations that the developed solutions together will be reusable for everyone,’ said Velsberg. ‘We have established a very good cooperation with the RIA and Microsoft, and now it is time to complete the project successfully.’
The cooperation agreement firstly provides for cooperation in the development of the Bürokratt virtual assistant, but this is only one part of a wider partnership. Last year, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and Microsoft signed a memorandum of understanding to promote the adoption of cloud solutions in the public sector and to engage in broader development cooperation towards the introduction of new solutions in the digital state.
According to Andres Sutt, Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology, the cooperation with Microsoft in the public sector will support the transition to cloud solutions and strengthen the competence of cloud services. ‘This, in turn, will help improve the user experience of public services and ultimately make the infrastructure more secure,’ said Sutt. ‘The introduction of cloud solutions offered by the private sector is important in Estonian national cloud policy. We are convinced that wider cooperation will also allow us to better assess how public cloud solutions can be used more safely,’ Sutt emphasised.
According to the RIA, the agreement with Microsoft will not change the current procurement process. ‘We will continue to develop solutions for the Bürokratt network through procurement and search for development partners. Working with Microsoft gives us one more choice. They can help us if there is a common interest,’ added Kaupo Laagriküll, Head of the Machine Learning and Language Technology Department at the RIA. ‘Neither party is required to participate in the development of each component or piece, but Microsoft and the RIA may agree to do so. It gives flexibility to both parties and at the same time creates a better opportunity for partnership.’
‘I am very happy that such a recognised company is interested in the artificial intelligence Bürokratt that we are developing. When we complete the virtual assistant, we will be able to make digital affairs much easier for Estonian residents. Thanks to this, we will offer a user experience that is unique in the world, so it is understandable why the planned developments are receiving a lot of attention,’ said Laagriküll.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and the RIA are collaborating with the international research and development team of Microsoft. The partnership does not have a specific deadline; it will last as long as both parties wish. The first joint project is already being prepared: the development of a distributed message room (DMR). ‘The agreements make it possible to use state-of-the-art knowledge and experience in the development of the Bürokratt network and its components, which would otherwise be difficult to acquire, and thus take the digital state to the next level of development,’ added Velsberg.
Together with Microsoft, RIA wants to create a secure and functional architecture, or, more precisely, a business architecture that can be reproduced in the future, for Estonia. ‘We want to work with the top experts of Microsoft to develop and receive feedback on both the implementation of machine learning and architectural solutions,’ said the head of the RIA department. He added that such a comparison of works helps to create better thought-out and designed solutions.