Toomas Ilves served as President of Estonia from 2006-16. He is notable for making Estonia one of the most digitally advanced nations through progressive policies that invested heavily in the future.
Estonia is an enviable model of digital governance, offering government e-services in voting, banking, healthcare, transportation, and education. During his presidency, Toomas Ilves introduced initiatives such as the “Tiger leap” programme for Estonian schools: to equip them with computer labs and to get them all online.
Toomas Ilves was born to Estonian refugees and raised in the United States. After holding several jobs in the United States and Canada, he moved to Munich in 1984 to work as an analyst and researcher for Radio Free Europe, eventually becoming head of the radio’s Estonian desk.
From 1993-96 he served as Estonia’s ambassador to the United States, Canada and Mexico. In 1996 Toomas Ilves began serving as the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, a post he held until 1998, and again from 1999 to 2002.
Toomas Ilves’ political career advanced when he was elected to the Riigikogu, the Estonian national legislature, in 2002 and to the European Parliament in 2004, beginning negotiations that resulted in Estonia’s admittance to the European Union in 2004. He ran for the presidency of Estonia as the candidate of the Social Democratic Party and was elected in 2006 and remained in this position for 10 years
During his presidency, Toomas Ilves has been appointed to serve in several high positions in the field of ICT in the European Union. He served as chairman of the EU Task Force on eHealth from 2011 to 2012 and was chairman of the European Cloud Partnership Steering Board at the invitation of the European Commission from 2012 to 2014. In 2013 he chaired the High-Level Panel on Global Internet Cooperation and Governance Mechanisms convened by ICANN. From 2014 to 2015 Ilves was the co-chair of the advisory panel of the World Bank’s World Development Report 2016 “Digital Dividends” and was also the chair of World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Cyber Security beginning in June 2014.
In 2016, Toomas began co-chairing The World Economic Forum working group, The Global Futures Council on Blockchain Technology. In 2017 he joined Stanford University as a Bernard and Susan Liautaud Visiting Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.
Toomas Ilves has published many essays and articles in Estonian and English on numerous topics ranging from Estonian language, history, and literature to global foreign and security policy and cyber security. His books include essay collections in Estonian, Finnish, Latvian, Hungarian, and Russian.
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