Estonia – building technical skills to support the Fintech & Cyber Security Sectors


Estonia is frequently referred to as ‘e-Estonia’ due to its early adoption of electronic processes within many aspects of public life, including electronic ID, smart contracts, electronic residency, and e-banking. Estonia has used decentralised, distributed systems since 2001 and Blockchain since 2008. In 2010 the country established ‘e-Prescriptions’, a centralised paperless system for issuing and handling medical prescriptions.

The country’s reliance on digitisation as well as its motivation in fighting off Russian cyber threats over decades has led to Estonia building notable industry strengths in digital, Fintech and Cyber Security. These are represented by a base of international businesses, organisations and indigenous companies including the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre, Symantec, Malwarebytes, Guardtime and Arvato Bertelsmann. Indigenous businesses include Bolt, Monese as well as unicorns Wise, Glia and Zego.

According to National Cyber Security Index (NCSI), Estonia’s index 90.91 is 48 percentage points above the world’s average and 17 points better than the European average. Estonia is highly ranked also in the ITU Global Cybersecurity Index, holding 3rd place in the world (2022).

Building Resilience in for Digital Skills Development

Estonia has put in place a considerable number of skills development initiatives to grow and accelerate the skills of its residents to meet the needs of the IT industry - particularly Fintech and Cyber Security. Government led skills initiatives are closely developed with the private sector and educational establishments.

The Tiger Leap Initiative established in the late 1990s, was a major government initiative to upgrade the country’s IT infrastructure and establish computer skills as a priority in all schools from primary school onwards as well as within adult education. Initiatives included establishing an educational portal to provide teachers with the opportunity to exchange ideas/ask for advice from colleagues, share good practise and access relevant educational materials.

Key to meeting the needs of industry has been the strength of the engagement of locally based companies with the education sector – from primary schools to Higher Education. This includes a wide range of activities from school visits by companies, company visits, hackathons, workshops on industry technical challenges etc.

The importance placed on links between companies and education recently led to local Fintech companies including Wise and Bolt establishing the Johvi Codling School.

A stand-out example of strong linkages between education and tech businesses is The Estonian Information Technology College (EITC) established in 2000 by the EIT Foundation. The latter consists of the government of Estonia, the University of Tartu, the Tallinn University of Technology, AS Eesti Telekom, and the Estonian Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications. College sponsors include Sybase, Swedbank, Oracle, Microsoft and TeliaSonera. The College also has co-operations agreements with Cisco Systems, Microsoft, and Oracle which involves the international certification programmes Cisco Network Academy, Microsoft IT Academy, and other initiatives.

All EITC’s academic staff are professionals in the field, with a third of lecturers coming from IT firms or state IT departments. EITC delivers an MSc in Cybersecurity Engineering.

Cybersecurity Skills

Estonia’s University of Tartu and Tallinn University of Technology both have a strong focus on engineering and science. The latter delivers MSc in Cybersecurity with students having the opportunity to have placements with cyber companies and the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence.

The Estonian government is implementing its cybersecurity strategy in collaboration with the private sector. Estonia’s National Cyber Defence League, a voluntary organisation consisting of more than 150 cyber security experts includes as part of its strategy, “education and training in information security”. The partners are working on increasing knowledge about cyber security career paths, its importance across different industries as well as integrating cyber security in ICT programmes in higher and vocational education.


With a population of just over 1.1m and the need to ensure its residents were equipped with the digital skills needed to make the country more resilient and economically stronger, the Estonian government took a long-term view to develop the country’s digital skills by putting in place digital learning right from early years. Another success factor of this skills development strategy has been the powerful links between the business community and the education sector.

Localities in the UK, whether a large Combined Authority or a smaller District Council can, through an effective business engagement programme, help to ensure that there are also mutually beneficial linkages between local companies and the education sector. This could provide welcomed resources for schools such as company mentors focussed on digital learning; companies undertaking school visits or pupil visits to the company; the development of industry led technical challenges and hackathons.

Growing local digital talent that is in short supply nationally means that companies can benefit from attracting the best pupils and students into their business as well as helping to meet their ESG goals (Environmental, Social & Governance).

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