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The Baltic as a digital role model: German-Baltic Digital Summit promotes exchange between NRW and the Baltic states

At the German-Baltic Digital Summit on 21 January 2019 in Düsseldorf, more than 250 companies and administrative bodies from Germany and the Baltic states met for their first digital conference. At the same time, more than 150 organized meetings between potential business partners took place. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are regarded as European pioneers and driving forces in areas such as digital administration, 5G networks or comprehensive broadband coverage as well as in the promotion of a dynamic start-up scene.

The Summit was organized by the German-Baltic Chamber of Commerce in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (AHK) together with NRW.INVEST, the economic development agency of the state of NRW, as the main partner. NRW.International provided a cooperation exchange with Baltic companies.

The Baltic states act as test laboratories for digital solutions such as e-government, IT security, X-Road or blockchain. This makes them a role model for many European countries. NRW Economic and Digital Affairs Minister Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart opened the conference in the form of a discussion with his Baltic counterparts on digitization models. He emphasized: "The Baltic states have embarked on a successful path into the digital future in the areas of business and administration. This became evident to me on my trip to Estonia last year and I came away with a great deal of input for our projects in North Rhine-Westphalia. Equally, there is considerable interest in the Baltic states in topics such as Factories of the Future and the Internet of Things, where North Rhine-Westphalia enjoys international visibility with the "it's OWL" cluster, the focus on logistics and the AI competence network. I am delighted that we are further intensifying the mutual exchange between companies and institutions from North Rhine-Westphalia and the Baltic states with the help of the German-Baltic Digital Summit in order to be able to effectively implement our digital strategy for North Rhine-Westphalia."

Florian Schröder, Managing Director of the German-Baltic Chamber of Commerce, also agreed with this assessment: "The Baltic states are undoubtedly pioneers in Europe and the world in some digital areas, particularly in e-government. Citizens gain many benefits from this, but joint projects also offer NRW and Germany many opportunities for administrative bodies and innovative companies." The AHK has made it its goal to advance European networking further. "Digital progress will not wait for us. It's high time we put our money where our mouth is," said Schröder.

The agenda of the German-Baltic Digital Summit included various panel discussions on key topics such as digital administration, cyber security and smart cities as well as various matchmaking sessions. For the strongly positioned North Rhine-Westphalian IT industry and Baltic digital companies, there are numerous intersections in this context enabling NRW to use Baltic digitization know-how and to transfer the models that exist there, particularly in e-government.

These include the software companies Cybernetica, Guardtime and NORTAL, which have developed and implemented key technologies for the Estonian government's e-services. NORTAL is currently setting up its German branch in Düsseldorf. "The Baltic states are among the top international locations for the digital economy," says Petra Wassner, CEO of NRW.INVEST. "But NRW also has a lot to offer in this area. With its high density of industrial and trading companies, the location offers enormous market potential as well as cooperation partners for digital technologies. Investors from the digital economy benefit from our vibrant start-up scene and a large talent pool of specialists." Moreover, no other German federal state has such a high density of ICT companies – from IT SMEs and software start-ups to telecommunications giants. At the German-Baltic Digital Summit, the strengths of the North Rhine-Westphalian digital industry were represented by global players such as adesso, Deutsche Telekom, G DATA and Materna.