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E-STONIA

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    A poster announces the opening of the European Innovation Academy in Tallinn, Estonia, on Jan. 21, 2013. The academy brings together thought leaders from companies such as Microsoft and Samsung for presentations and workshops aimed at increasing the overlap of business, innovation and technology in Estonia, an incubator for tech start-ups.
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    A programming lesson is taught at Gustav Adolfi Gumnaasium, an elite Estonian public school founded in 1631. It is one of the oldest and most well-known schools in Estonia; students begin taking computer lessons on PCs or tables beginning in the first grade.
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    Members of the local Russian community are seen after a dip in the -24° Narva river during an Orthodox baptism. The Narva river waterfront, which separates Estonia from Russia, has a population that is about 95 percent Russian.
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    At Technopolis Startsmart, candidates are given five minutes to present their start-up proposal to potential funding investors. Here, the CEO of a company that develops domestic incident control software illustrates the benefits of her start-up.
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    Visitors attend the opening of the European Innovation Academy in January 2013. Housed within Tallinn University of Technology, the academy provides students with an opportunity to develop the skills needed to turn innovative ideas into successful and sustainable business ventures.
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    A view of the road between Tartu and Narva, in eastern Estonia, is seen from a passing bus. In nearby suburbs buses depart every thirty minutes to the nearest major towns. Winter lasts from the end of November until March; in the past five years Estonia's harsh winters have been tempered by climate change, raising the low temperature to about zero degrees.
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    Fits.me—a virtual fitting room service for online clothing retailers that is based on robots—launched in 2010. Chief executive Heikki Haldre and chief technology officer Paul Pällin brought together expertise from the fields of apparel design, graphic and user-interface design, anthropometrics, IT, robotics and engineering to create the Fits.me virtual fitting room, which has won several awards including one at the European startup competition in Brussels the year it debuted.
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    The Herd Navigator System is seen at work on Avo Samaruutel's farm in Manniku. The complex software system allows for sophisticated management of the life and health of livestock. Robotics technology assists Samaruutel with milk extraction, making it possible for just six people to successfully manage a farm of 350 cows. With the help of Herd Navigator he was elected Farmer of the Year in 2011.
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    A statue of Lenin, relocated from its original location, looks over Narva Castle on the Estonian waterfront, on the country's eastern border with the European Union.
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    Aleko Peipsi, CEO of MyotonPRO technology, is seen at work in his office. Myoton allows physicians and sports therapists to measure individual skeletal muscles, ligaments and tendons as well as different regions of soft tissue for more effective diagnosis and treatment. The device detects even small changes in the state and properties of tissues to a high degree of accuracy.
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    In the photograph, In a morning meeting, staff of East Tallinn Hospital examine scans of a patient waiting for surgery. With new digital technology and communication systems—including the Estonian health systeam, E-Health Portal—both remote and on-site doctors in medical centers across the country can participate in meetings and offer advice in real time to improve diagnosis and prepare for surgeries.
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    A syringe exchange program is seen at the rehabilitation center Erika 5. Since 2000, Estonia has had the highest HIV rate among countries of the European Union, but the country is also using the latest technology and comprehensive services to combat the epidemic.
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    Jekaterina Voinova, a board member of the Linda HIV Foundation, was a drug addict for years before receiving a Methadone treatment. She now has a five-year-old daughter and is one of the most well-known faces of the Linda HIV Foundation, which focuses on HIV prevention and awareness.
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    A methadone distribution program is offered to local residents at the rehab center Erika 5 in Tallinn, Estonia.
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    A man belonging to Narva's Russian community walks along the riverbank after participating in an Orthodox baptism celebration.
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    Lab director Maarja Kruusmaa, a researcher in animal behavior and psychic philosophy in the Biorobotics lab of Tallinn University of Technology, heads collaborative projects in cooperation with some of the world's premiere universities, including an exploration of river fish sensors that take advantage of stream vacuum dynamics to save energy.
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    The top floor of Tallinn's TV Tower, which was constructed under Soviet rule, remains the tallest building in the city but now houses a panoramic restaurant and interactive monitors to engage young visitors.
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    A woman waits for her departure at the Tallinn bus station. Buses—which are low-cost and furnished with high speed wifi—are a popular means of transportation across Estonia.
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    Start-up Inkubaator lends a helping hand to Estonia's emerging start-ups. Their offices occupy a high rise in Tallinn, a major tech city in a country renowned for its active start-up culture.
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    A Skype developer is seen at work in the company's headquarters in Estonia. First released in 2003 in Estonia, Skype quickly grew into a platform with over 600 million users, and was bought by Microsoft in 2011 for $8.5 billion.
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    An external view of Skype's headquarters in Tallinn, Estonia. Skype was invented here by Estonian computer engineers Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu, and Jaan Tallinn. The service allows users to communicate with peers online by voice, webcam, and instant messaging. Skype's success now inspires young Estonians seeking careers in technology while also providing a well-spring to nurture the local tech scene.
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    Young programmers collaborate on the launch of the first Estonian satellite in the EST-CUBE space. Roughly 100 students and scientists contributed to the creation of the roughly one-kilogram satellite, which was nearly six years in the making. The project is aimed at promoting space exploration as an invaluable educational tool for science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) subjects and giving students hands-on experience on developing space technologies.
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    On the road between Narva and Tallinn, in the eastern part of Estonia, January 2013.
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    Elina Kitsing, a project manager at Fits.me, poses in the company's warehouse with one of the company's award-winning developments.
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    A programming lesson takes place at Gustav Adolfi Gumnaasium, an elite Estonian public school founded in 1631, where students begin taking computer lessons in the first grade.
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    A statue of Lenin faces Narva Castle on the town's waterfront, which marks the eastern border with Russia.
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    Olga, 30 years old and a mother of three, lives with HIV with social service support from the nonprofit EHPV. Estonia's Narva and Ida Virumaa regions, about 30 percent of the population is HIV positive. The percentage is even higher among those who use heroin, another major social and health issue in the region.
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    Olga, a 35-year-old mother of two children, has been addicted to drugs since she was 23. She discovered that she was HIV positive when she was arrested and tested in prison in 2001. Since 2010 she has been participating in a methadone rehab program organized by the Erika 5 rehabilitation center.
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E-stonia

While most European countries have succumbed to economic crisis, the Republic of Estonia—also known as the Baltic tiger—has done exceptionally well despite a population of only 1.5 million. In 2013, Estonia boasted the lowest public debt in Europe, about 6 percent of GDP, and was placed 127th out of 133 countries in public debt classification.

Perhaps part of this can be attributed to Estonia’s record of consistently investing in new technologies, which have transformed it into one of the most advanced e-countries in the world. Estonia produces more start-ups per capita than any other country in Europe, and roughly 77 percent of families have high-speed Internet access.

The power of Internet and new technologies can be observed both at macro and micro levels. Estonia—one of the first countries to have a fully e-enabled government—has also launched a virtual, nation-wide healthcare system which stores patients’ medical history online to allow for easier consultation, better diagnosis, and more targeted treatment. High tech resources and other technologies have invaded most business sectors, especially those dealing with robotics and computer software, bolstering the robust start-up culture that gave birth to Skype a decade ago.

Amidst this economic growth, innovation and prosperity, the country is not without a darker side and its own unique social issues. Since 2000, Estonia has had the highest HIV rate—a rate of epidemic proportions—in the Baltic States. It has the second highest incidence rate of the virus in all of Europe. The most affected area, Ida Virumaa, is located along the Russian border, where increasing heroin addiction has led to widespread contagion among drug users. Through advanced technologies that support comprehensive health and human services, Estonia is working to combat the epidemic, and to bring greater health and quality of life to meet the needs of citizens across the country.

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