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Kotka says government in the way of innovation

COMMENT PRINT ARTICLE
PHOTO: Teet Malsroos/Õhtuleht

Outgoing Deputy Chancellor of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications in charge of communication and national information systems, long-time ambassador of the Estonian innovation scene Taavi Kotka has decided to throw down the gauntlet and explicitly accuse the government of slowing down innovation.

“The Riigikogu has started to extensively slow down innovation under the new government in which light Tanel Talve's (SDE) e-Estonia support group comes off especially comical,” Kotka told Postimees.

Kotka seems to have taken offense after Talve said during the forming of the committee: “Even though Estonia has stood out in the world as a successful e-country, development has slowed and a lot of things have become mired lately.”

Three concerns

Kotka's counter came swiftly. A Facebook post from this week reveals a sharp realization that places the blame squarely with the Riigikogu and the new coalition: “Development of the e-state has ground to a halt lately and requires intensive intervention from the Riigikogu.”

There are three aspects about the Riigikogu's actions that trouble Kotka.

First of all the chancellor cannot fathom the decision to postpone the switch to mandatory e-invoices. Kotka blamed the Pro Patria Res Publica Union (IRL) for torpedoing the initiative, and said that Denmark adopted a similar system already back in 2005.

The Riigikogu's decision followed the fact that three operators – Omniva, Telema, and Fitek – had reached an agreement concerning e-invoice roaming and shut the door on new companies. The Center of Registers and Information Systems was tasked with creating a new and universal system in which all business software developers could mediate e-invoices in the future.

Kotka described the decision as abandoning the switch to e-invoices. “In other words, no development,” he said.

Secondly there is the matter of legalizing Uber in Estonia. “Ride sharing services are in the process of becoming a right mess in the Riigikogu. I gather that IRL is once again at play here,” Kotka wrote.

The deputy chancellor was referring to draft legislation to amend the Public Transport Act to legalize ride sharing in Estonia that has been in Riigikogu proceedings since spring of last year. The initial version of the bill reached the Riigikogu through Reform Party MPs who had written it for international ride sharing giant Uber without it passing through customary levels of coordination beforehand.

The bill was later found to have so many shortcomings that the economy ministry had to put together an entirely new version that has now landed on the table of the Riigikogu Economic Affairs Committee again. Kotka's most recent criticism concerns the coalition's alleged plan to curb e-voting.

“The prime minister's party has tasked the justice ministry with going after e-elections. The first move is to shorten the e-voting period – what for?” Kotka asked.

The Center Party has been against e-voting from the start and spent years looking for security problems and pointing out potential violations of the freedom to decide of people voting remotely.

Talve refutes accusations

Chairman of the Riigikogu's newest e-Estonia support group Tanel Talve did not understand Kotka's sharp reaction.

“I will definitely not be pulled into a war of words with someone via the media. Of course, I cannot really understand it; all these accusations against the parliament concern things done by the previous government; what do they have to do with the new one? I also cannot recall our so-called IT leader having appeared in front of the parliament to address all of these important IT topics,” Talve said.

The politician said he has great respect for the work Kotka has done. “I have never thrown around accusations, and I cannot understand such a painful reaction to someone holding this vital topic to be important and attempting to promote it on the parliament level?”

“Unfortunately, arrogant attitudes toward the Riigikogu are widespread among other officials; and that is another area we have to work on to boost the parliament's capacity,” the MP said.

“The executive power executes based on guidelines it gets from the parliament, not the other way around,” he reminded.

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