Smart Connectivity overview. Credit: Three Seas.

The Smart Connectivity forum at Monday’s Three Seas Virtual Summit saw the unveiling of a game-changing approach to the digitization of travel and energy, as envisioned by Estonia and supported by tech giant Google.

"This smart connectivity concept fits very well with one of the European Commission’s top priorities, which is creation of a common EU data space," President Kersti Kaljulaid told the forum in a video unveiling Estonia’s Smart Connectivity vision for the Three Seas Region.

Estonia as a noted e-state was best placed to carry this out, she went on.

"We think that we have a competitive advantage over the rest of the EU, because we have fewer legacy systems to hold us back. The Three Seas region can emerge as a leader in data and digital connections, not just for Europe, but for the whole world. Let’s get started on our smart connectivity today," the president said.

Smart Connectivity is essentially a digital layer put in place over the physical transport and energy links in the Three Seas Region which would greatly enhance links between the 12 nations, particularly on the north-south axis where they have long lagged behind those of their counterparts elsewhere in the EU.

The funding aspect of the region, the Three Seas Initiative Investment Fund (3SIIF) is key in drawing together existing tech and knowhow to make Smart Connectivity work, and the future-proof aspect of the vision is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that Google is getting on board.

The Silicon Valley stalwart sees the Three Seas Region as digital challengers, and in recognition of this has set up the Impact Challenge, which comprises a €2-million fund for use by charitable organizations in the region, to help 3SI ambitions become a reality.

"We will be launching in January 2021 the Impact Challenge for Central and Eastern Europe," Google Cloud’s Vice-President for Government Affairs and Public Policy Pablo Chavez told the Smart Connectivity forum.

Naturally the COVID-19 pandemic had made this even more important, he said.

“We want to boost the work of charitable organizations from across the region with funding and expertise, to make the best of their innovative ideas on how to help those in need through economic recovery,” Chavez, who also told the forum that the Three Seas Region digital sector alone will be worth around €200 billion by 2025, went on.

Smart Connectivity should see the Three Seas Region become a global hotspot for smart mobility and energy innovation, with smart corridors, autonomous vehicles, labour-saving processes and smart energy grids all making up the bigger picture.

This will also serve to act as a beacon to the rest of the world, as well as attract future investment.

President Kersti Kaljulaid’s full video address, announcing the Smart Connectivity vision, is below.

The full Smart Connectivity vision paper is here.