By Angelos Anastasiou
Cyprus needs to apply Estonia’s system of e-government, after adjusting to local laws, because it is the best example globally, DISY leader Averof Neophytou said on Tuesday.
In a working breakfast with Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas, the two men discussed Cyprus’ efforts to improve the services offered to citizens, as well as the Cyprus problem.
“The Estonian Premier fully understood our position that a European country cannot accept foreign guarantors by third countries, nor can a European country maintain foreign troops on its soil,” Neophytou said.
“They have their own traumatic experiences, and it is easy for these countries to sympathise with these views.”
With regard to the two countries’ cooperation on electronic government, Neophytou said his party will fully back the memorandum of understanding signed on Monday.
“In Estonia one needn’t go to the polls to vote, needn’t run to a pharmacy to get drugs, needn’t run to banks to make transactions, needn’t go to the income tax offices to pay taxes or wait for months for tax returns,” DISY’s leader said.
“Citizens can do all that using their mobile phones, with an electronic ID built in. Using the phone and the electronic ID, the average Estonian can access all government services and be fully served in no time, and with no hassle.”
We have a lot to learn from the Estonians, who are “the best example of e-government globally”, he added.
Neophytou had kind words for under-secretary to the president – also reform commissioner – Constantinos Petrides, who took on the knowledge transfer from Estonia.
“In Cyprus we need to make things simpler, without having to reinvent the wheel,” Neophytou said.
“The Estonians introduced e-government in all levels years ago, so we don’t have to do anything more than cooperate with them, take their model, adjust it to our legislation, and offer this opportunity for quality and speedy service to our citizens, while cutting the state’s costs.”
Neophytou recalled a visit to Tallinn six months ago, when he visited the income tax offices.
“I was taken to the chief’s office,” he said.
“An office that had no secretaries, an office that had no desks, and an office that had no chairs. There was only a computer on a podium, from which the chief could keep an eye on everything. He told me they no longer had district income-tax offices; they had shut them down and kept only the central office, because everything was done online.”
We can apply this model in Cyprus, too, he added, before linking Estonia’s low public debt with the cost savings incurred by e-government.
“Estonia has a public debt of 10 per cent only, of which 2,5 per cent has arisen due to its participation in Eurozone bailout programmes to countries like Ireland, Cyprus, Greece, and Portugal,” Neophytou said.
“One of the reasons they have such a low public debt is that all these e-government systems have significantly cut their costs, while improving the services offered.”