Estonia has recently become a wireless hotspot due largely to the hard work of Veljo Haamer, editor of the wifi.ee website.
Mr. Haamer, a former computer science student and tutor, was turned onto wireless from articles he read about projects in the US. He visited some friends there to learn more about Wi-Fi and then decided to start his own project in Estonia.
“Wi-Fi is such a wonderful technology,” says Mr. Haamer, as he types away on his laptop in one of Tallinn’s swanky new cafes. “My job is simply to explain to people how easy it is to use.”
The first Wi-Fi hotspots launched in the spring of 2001 and today there are more than 280 throughout the country of Estonia. Most of Estonia’s cafes have access points and about two-thirds of them are free to use. The remaining one-third provides slightly faster internet access for a price.
Even local petrol stations are beginning to have access points installed, with a slight increase in the price of petrol to pay for this service, most commuters do not mind since they can now check their email on the road.
The most important thing, Haamer points out, is the wireless hotspots are clearly marked with orange and black signs or stickers. Unlike the US where you could be in a wireless hotspot and not even know it.
Estonia has been dubbed “E-Stonia” by some for its hi-tech prowess, so this recent surge of Wi-Fi activity hardly comes as a shock. Haamer’s next goal is to be able to walk through a park without leaving a wireless zone. Many people are already embracing the idea of wireless internet.
“It’s a social and political project,” Mr. Haamer says. “People need to see how comfortable it is to use the internet.”