Defining the core focus areas of successful societal e-transformation

by Priit Alamäe, December 14, 2016

Nortal’s CEO Priit Alamäe shares his thoughts on a number of core focus areas that have led to a successful societal e-transformation in Estonia. He calls it the Nortal e-transformation Engine.

We have been lucky to be part of one of the biggest societal transformations in the 21st century – the digital disruption of Estonia. Within 15 years, Estonia has gone from a post-Soviet transition economy to a global digital leader.

This has been a journey of trial and error, of courageous policy decisions and a strong underlying trust and belief in the power of technology to transform societies. In our research we have identified the core areas of successful societal e-transformation. We call it the Nortal e-Transformation Engine.

Why engine and not matrix or process?

In a well-designed engine every part has its own clearly defined function, and is essential to its flawless functioning. If you remove any part of the engine, it will not function properly.


Societies are complex organisms and there are no simple off-the-shelf solutions to address the different needs, cultural diversity and economic challenges that each country is facing.

Designing the right engine for a country is therefore comparable to powering a supertanker or an aircraft carrier. Yes, you need learn from the best but you need to understand and design for the individual purpose and context.

The right mix to empower transformation

Any successful transformation is a mix of right strategic choices, purposeful change management and smart technology implementation. The most successful countries in the world are going digital by default, creating new legislation and policies that are inspired by the advances in technology and designing change management programs for smooth transitions in society.


In theory this all sounds simple. There are hundreds of books written on strategy, change management and engineering. Still, for some reason, there are not too many cases for successful government reforms.

Estonia is a good example of how it has all come together successfully. It is a combination of smart choices, good engineering and, let’s be honest, a lot of luck. But maybe there is something to learn from here?

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