YES…More than a Conference, It’s a Network!

Riigikontroll, the Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) of Estonia, hosted the third Young EUROSAI (YES) conference September 11-14, 2017, in Tallinn, Estonia. Roughly 100 young auditors, representing members of the European Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (EUROSAI) and special guests, participated in the inspiring, innovative conference.

The Journal sat down with YES Coordinator, Ms. Krislin Kivi, before the event to learn about the inspiration behind the concept for this year’s YES conference.

Building off the enthusiasm of the previous Young EUROSAI conference hosted by the State Comptroller’s Office of Israel in 2015, the YES planning team at SAI Estonia began preparations for the conference about a year and half prior to the event. During several brainstorming sessions, all ideas pointed back to one theme: data and digitalization. Thus, the theme “Updates Available” was born.

As Ms. Kivi explained, “There are always developments in digitalization going on and auditors have to keep up.”
The rapid pace of technological innovation, along with the increasing availability of data, demands an array of technical and analytical skills. Auditors must continuously “update” their skills to remain current.

With that in mind, guest speakers, such as heads of SAIs of Estonia, Netherlands, and Finland, as well as experts in the digital information economy and e-governance, were invited to dialogue with the young auditors. The structure of the four-day conference encouraged significant audience engagement.

Setting Up the Network
The first day included an original kick off featuring a group activity, which, Ms. Kivi added, was “unlike other conferences where the social activity is at the end of the event.” After a brief introduction, participants formed small teams and embarked on a self-guided scavenger hunt through historical Old Town Tallinn.

Open Data, Open Mind
Day two found attendees gathered at the Mektory, a center for innovation at the Tallinn University of Technology. The first half of the day focused on the age of open information, and the second half stimulated thinking outside the box.

Moving remarks from Ms. Kersti Kaljulaid, the President of Estonia, officially opened “Updates Available,” inspiring youth leadership and emphasizing technology’s impact in auditing.

“The quickly changing technological landscape demands the younger generation take responsibility for their desired future decades earlier,” she said, adding, “We cannot see technology as a problem, but as a solution!”

Entrepreneur, researcher and technologist, Dr. Rufus Pollock, illustrated what a sustainable digital age would look like—citing examples where social problems could be solved by an open government—if data was made available to everyone. He demonstrated a dynamic and inclusive system where an increase in ideas leads to an increase in innovation.

His formula—“Open Data + Many Minds = Insight & Savings.”

Mr. Mihkel Solvak, senior researcher in technology studies at the University of Tartu, presented on real-time predictive analytics where he discussed how real-time data produced by e-government could help diagnose problems and provide better services to the people.

“The data is there, we simply need to build predictive models off of them,” he asserted.

Renowned speaker, writer and communications coach, Mr. Gleb Maltsev, conducted an exercise on the components of an effective 90-second “elevator pitch”—a succinct sales speech.

Following the coaching, ten participants proposed ideas to the entire audience on prevalent social issues in various fields ranging from education and health care to national security. The audience, divided into several teams, fleshed out potential solutions using open or big data. Each team, equipped with an experienced mentor to help guide the discussion and generate ideas, regrouped and presented a full solution to event participants, who then voted on their favorite solution.

Data is the New Black
The third day emphasized sharing experiences, and the YES spirit, characterized by excitement and innovation, did not fail to deliver.

There were 15 participant-led workshops held concurrently during three sessions throughout the day demonstrating the impact of the data explosion and digitalization on audit work. Attendees were exposed to different perspectives in audit and data covering a wide variety of topics, such as conducting financial audits using big data and data analysis; data gathering and management in the pre-audit process; and data’s impact on cyber security.

Download and Install
“Download and Install” represented the finale theme where participants reflected on the future of e-governance in public service and attended a panel discussion on the future of auditing.

Tallinn University of Technology’s Dr. Robert Krimmer concentrated on how open data will change e-governance. He challenged participants to consider innovation as the product of citizen interest and engagement with the government. He called for developing services in a different way—making processes more interactive and virtual while considering government and citizens as co-creators, co-designers and co-implementers of services and information gathering.
The day transitioned to a lively panel discussion on e-governance and auditing’s future. The panel, which included the Auditor General of Finland’s National Audit Office, Ms. Tytti Yli-Viikari; Dr. Krimmer; and Mr. George Worlledge from the United Kingdom’s (UK) National Audit Office; was effortlessly moderated by Mr. Urmet Lee from SAI Estonia.

During the panel event, a riveting discussion on how to determine when citizen engagement is best—at the beginning of an audit where opinions on the audit’s direction would be considered or during the audit when opinions on findings would be encouraged—took place, resulting in one clear notion across the panel…citizen engagement does not mean involvement at every step. But, it should be considered at some point.

At the panel’s conclusion, Mr. Worlledge enthusiastically announced that the UK would play host to the next EUROSAI YES conference and invited interested participants across the region to join the planning committee to continue the collective power of engagement.

Updates Available was marked by inspirational speakers and an energetic audience. Participants helped shape the agenda and determined meeting outcomes. The event’s interactive nature was further emphasized with audience engagement tools during presentations, such as live polls and Q&A sessions. By providing a space to share experiences, success stories, challenges confronted, Updates Available continued the momentum of YES, strengthening the network of young professionals and inspiring them to take action!

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