What do snow, Skype and civil protection have in common?
Arvamus 17 Jan 2012  EWR
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Kristalina Georgieva, New Europe Online, January 17, 2012
What do snow, Skype and civil protection have in common? When you are in Estonia – a lot! The Baltic state has great internet penetration rate and is a leader in IT and the homeland of Skype. And it uses its technological edge to improve disaster preparedness and response.

Yesterday (16 January) I landed in freezing, snow-covered Tallinn. Estonians told me that because it is so cold, nobody wants to go out, so they simply had to invest in internet connectivity. Now it covers 98% of the population, many of whom shop, do their banking, pay their taxes and cast their votes online.

It is also online that Estonians train for disasters – At the Academy for Security Sciences I attended a computer simulation for various scenarios – earthquakes, fires, industrial accident caused by a plane crashing into an oil refinery. Virtual disaster response training looks a lot like a computer game, played with joysticks. However, it is a serious business with real-time training and many interconnected participants. The huge advantage to regular exercises on the ground is the ability to re-run scenarios and correct mistakes.

New information and communication technologies add real value in disaster situations, for instance to search and rescue operations. It is not by accident that civil protection training in Estonia emphasises a lot on IT skills. So far, over 1700 people have passed through the simulation training exercises. And Estonia is a generous partner, sharing its training know-how with other countries. I was impressed to see how a country can use the area in which it has an edge – IT – for disaster prevention, preparedness and response.

Many countries have snowy, cold winters, but not all of them have Estonia’s enviable track record in high-tech leadership. It is because here entrepreneurial spirit can thrive thanks to good governance, political stability and a reform-minded government.

I met some of the representatives of the government – the Foreign Minister Urmas Päet and the Under Secretary for Economic and Development affairs Väino Reinart, the Minister of Interior Ken-Marti Vaher, and Alo Tammsalu, Deputy-Director of the Rescue Service. I also spoke with the President Ene Ergma and members of the Estonian Parliament, including the founder of the Estonian Rescue Board Mati Raidma.

We discussed Estonia’s increasingly active role as humanitarian donor and actor. Estonia has been a proactive co-chair of the Good Humanitarian Donorship initiative; it supports numerous relief organisations; its Disaster Relief Team has participated in missions in Cyprus, Ukraine, Moldova, Pakistan, Indonesia and Haiti. The high capacity pumping module Baltic Flood Combat jointly operated with Latvia and Lithuania helped fight floods in Poland and Moldova in 2010. Estonians can be proud of of their country’s strong commitment to saving lives and helping people in need.

And as Europe’s crisis response commissioner, I am proud and reassured to know that our citizens and the victims of crises around the world can count on Estonia’s support.

( http://www.neurope.eu/blog/wha... )
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