Digital revolution and evolution in Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe is becoming a hotbed of innovation and progressive digital legislation, which is providing the foundation for a generation of start-ups and entrepreneurs from the region, enhancing the potential of major exits in the near future. Although Western funds (even the the closely associated London corporate finance) have essentially fled the region’s largest telecom market Russia, smaller but more liberal landscapes in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Estonia are demonstrating an evolution of digital consumption.

Hack innovation in Prague

Radio Prague reported that Czech guerrilla art group Ztohoven, which claims its antecedents from the communist-era dissident group Charter 77 and is known for its controversial projects and operating in anonymity, has opened what it has dubbed an “institute of crypto-anarchy”. Situated in a former factory building in the run-down Prague district of Holešovice, Paralelní Polis (“parallel world”) will serve as a hacker space, a hub and a bitcoin café, offering patrons a chance to “step out of the system”, according to its founders.

An anonymous spokesman for the group commented: “The idea is to create an absolutely independent space dedicated to people who are seeking another way to use and apply modern technologies, which are strong tools for social change.” He added: “There is also a space where you can experiment with different technologies, such as 3D printing”.

Hungarian Internet legislation fought off

The Hungarian government has shelved its plan to impose a tax on internet data transfers from next year. Under this proposal, internet providers would have had to pay HUF150 ($0.62) per gigabyte of data traffic. Critics claimed that the levy would have made internet access more costly for consumers. Late October saw large protests against the proposed tax in Budapest and elsewhere. Many of these were organised via social media. “The measure would impede equal access to the internet, deepening the digital divide…and limit[ing] internet access for cash-poor schools and universities”, one Facebook-based group claimed in a statement.

Estonians embrace e-everything

The New York Times reported that few nations have fully embraced the digital world as enthusiastically as Estonia. The centrepiece of this system is a microchipped national identity card, which all Estonians are issued when they turn 15 years of age. It enables them to access a host of public- and private-sector services from banking to fishing licences and prescriptions.

Taavi Roivas, the country’s Prime Minister, told the newspaper: “Digital services have changed our lives. It’s easier to communicate with the state, and there’s a lot less bureaucracy”. The newspaper notes that Estonians are largely unconcerned by arguments relating to data privacy “that have become hot-button issues elsewhere”.

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