I had lunch with Linnar Viik, the "father of the Estonian internet" in Tallinn the other week. Linnar has played a key role in the public, private, non-profit and academic sectors. I knew him when he had a company that worked with me to develop the President's website.
As we sat down, Linnar said he had to put some money in the parking meter. I expected him to get up, but instead he fiddled with his phone and said, "done." That's when I knew things have changed more than it appears since I last visited. 40% of parking meter payments are made this way. What's more, he whipped out a iBook and took advantage of the free wifi (everwhere) to show me some great stuff his companies and students had developed.
His main current occupation is with the IT College he founded, which pragmatically trains 500 developers and administrators. Linnar has also been active in eGovernment, beginning with the Tiger Leap program that ambitiously brought the Internet to every single school and has played a role in advancing e-government.
Linnar is actively involved with mobile technologies with MobiSolutions, a market outreach of Estonian students who as early as 1999 implemented mobile voting as spectator event for conferences and mobile interactivity for live entertainment events as Depeche Mode and Elton John. Among the things his companies have done is a group blog for Hello Kitty in Japan that lets users message and audioblog from their mobile devices to create a shared voicemail.
Check out the demo video of Kick Ass Kung Fu, a student collaboration:
Kick Ass Kung-Fu is an immersive game installation that transforms computer gaming into a visual, physical performance like modern dance or sports. The game lets you experience Kung-Fu movie action and aesthetics by merging the real and the virtual with a perceptive user interface.
Sony is practically giving away video sensor Eyetoys ($50 including a game for the PS2), expect this interface to grow in use. This, of course, kicks a little more ass. Plus, people outside the gaze of the system can contribute by sending commands via SMS to manipulate virtual objects.
Being an innovator in a small country comes with a responsibility broader than your own private interest. Linnar has accepted this from day one and has played a big part in advancing his society. Its a model we could all learn from, as while you may not come from a small country you can advance your local community and have fun along the way.