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by Nortal

Spreading the e-governance message globally

Nortal CEO Priit Alamäe shares his vision for taking the company’s unique brand of digital innovation and change management to the developing world.

Alamäe recently spoke to Finnish technology magazine Tietoviikko about doing business in places where many others have floundered, and how this philosophy remains central to the company’s plans.

According to Alamäe, Nortal’s business is undergoing a serious growth phase and he expects company revenues, which totaled €48.3 million in 2017, to increase by 20 percent during the 2018 financial year.

Staff numbers are also expected to grow significantly. While Nortal already has more than 700 employees, the company plans to hire an additional 300 people in the next year.

The vision for the company remains steadfast. According to Alamäe, the central tenet of Nortal is to provide all-in-one solutions for clients, and this often means turning away those who seek only a single element of service.

“We are happy to build digital tax reforms, by moving taxation online, which help the country save billions of euros. The ID card is just a piece of plastic. The true digital identity of a person is in the databases that hold information about them,” says Alamäe.

Surely there are a host of competitors in the industry by now. How does he expect Nortal to stay ahead of the chasing pack? He insists that quality of service remains a key differentiator for Nortal. We don’t sell the best price, but rather the best competence, in the world.

Bringing digitalization to the developing world

A key growth area for Nortal remains the African continent, where many governments are hoping to jump straight to digital, especially in countries where good governance is relatively new.

Alamäe dismisses the idea that corruption may hamper the rolling out of services, although there are still some challenges.

“It’s more like someone telling you they know a minister who could help if needed, if it’s agreed that way. Although, I must say that, in particular, is more developed and predictable than many countries in southern Europe. Africa is positively surprising.”

So how does one avoid being seen as a new colonialist push? It is very easy to cause offense when you operate in a totally foreign culture.

Of course, this is easier in some countries than others: “In Estonia and the Nordic countries, the culture is quite similar in the sense that people want to understand things before doing them and people speak rather directly.”

We always have local management that follows the local customs. We are a local company in each country.

The challenges in Africa may be huge, but the successes are equally astonishing when they occur. For example, Nortal was contracted to help the Nigerian government improve its public finance management system.

The government had no accounting system and vast sums of money were simply disappearing into a labyrinthine system of bank accounts and state departments that often didn’t even exist.

To help bring some order to this chaos, Nortal built the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System, which to date has saved the country in excess of €7 billion.

So what lies ahead for Nortal? Where are the new markets?

While the developing world remains a key target area, Alamäe is also eager to enter the U.S., which certainly lags behind some European countries when it comes to digital government.

“In the U.S., we have so far focused on the Seattle region of Washington state. To accelerate the growth, we have acquired a company operating in the area,” says Alamäe.

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