Subscribe Menu

Kratid — from old legends to public service

Reading through old Estonian tales you will occasionally come across a kratt—a creature built out of household items or hay that came alive through a transaction with the Devil. The sole purpose of a kratt was to serve its master, but one had to be careful. A kratt would only do exactly what it was told, and if it became idle, it turned against its owner.

Maarika Merirand, Project Manager at Tehnopol ( )

Time has passed, and technology has caught up with the legends. Kratid are held in high regard in Estonia, and since 2019 they have even had their own national-level strategy. The Estonian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, also known as kratikava, aims to increase the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in both public as well as private sector. The strategy includes multiple activities, such as raising awareness of AI in public organizations, holding bootcamps for companies, updating legislation, offering data literacy trainings for different target groups and more.

There are over 80 kratid already working or being trained in the Estonian public sector. Some of their functions include remote surveillance of forests, analyzing names of new medicinal products, forecasting traffic accidents, identifying inaccurate tax refund claims, transcribing court sessions, translating databases, etc. They even contribute to preserving Estonian heritage by assessing and describing museum pieces, transcribing old documents, and using image recognition to process old photos.

But where kratid are truly essential is language technology. Solutions in this field enable people to communicate with their devices in Estonian – that includes spell checking technology, automatically compiled text summaries, voice-controlled programs, and even interpreting texts for emotions. There are multiple ongoing projects analyzing texts, developing text tools, and composing synthetic voices. Estonian speakers can actually contribute to the new developments by “donating” their speech on Anneta kõnet.

Another noteworthy project that relies heavily on language technology is #Bürokratt. At first glance, it might seem like an ordinary chat robot, but the strategic vision is for it to become a proactive and simple communication channel that will provide access to all public services. And it will do all of that in Estonian.

It seems that since the time of old Estonian tales, the masters have learned how to make sure that kratid don’t do any evil and work in a useful way. As the developers of the AI strategy say on their website: “This is the only way we can benefit from them: we gain free time, peace of mind, and a fair society.”

Read more