Toomas Hendrik Ilves with the Reinhard Mohn Prize 2017, Liz Mohn and Brigitte Mohn
Kai Uwe Oesterhelweg

Reinhard Mohn Prize: The Reinhard Mohn Prize 2017 – The award year in review

Better quality of life, opportunities for development, and local participation through digitalization – the Reinhard Mohn Prize 2017 addressed the challenges of the 21st century. Intelligent technology and networks should foster social inclusion, while ensuring living conditions in rural regions equivalent to those in cities.

Smart Country – Connected. Intelligent. Digital.

The ceremony awarding the Reinhard Mohn Prize “Smart Country – Connected. Intelligent. Digital.” on 29 June 2017 to former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves marked the culmination of an extensive international investigation into digitalization and its effects on our society.

Here are a few impressions of the memorable event:

Toomas Hendrik Ilves with the Bertelsmann Stiftung executive board and Prof. Jan Gulliksen


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Toomas Hendrik Ilves with the Reinhard Mon Prize 2017, Liz Mohn and Brigutte Mohn


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Cameraman at work


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Toomas Hendrik Ilves


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We are using the topic of Smart Country to examine social megatrends – digitization and demographic change – that are posing major challenges for Germany. These trends are influencing and altering all areas of life.
Brigitte Mohn, Member of Bertelsmann Stiftung's Executive Board

Digitalization – Opportunities for greater participation

Substantive preparation for this year’s award began in autumn 2015 with the objective of exploring the opportunities proliferated by digitalization. And while any rational approach to digital transformation clearly demands a consideration of risks, we focused on the extent to which digitalization can deepen and expand the reach of social inclusion. Our research thus examined more than 100 best practices from more than 30 countries, relating to a variety of fields of activity:

All the examples featured in our research are already demonstrating the possibilities offered by digitalization. Even if they cannot always be translated on a one-to-one basis to Germany, they offer a diverse range of suggestions that can trigger the implementation of effective ideas and concrete applications locally. 

Publikation: Smart Country – Connected. Intelligent. Digital.

Publikation: Prize winner booklet for the Reinhard Mohn Prize 2017


Expert panels conducted several rounds of discussion on international case studies and digital strategies that could serve as models for Germany. We additionally examined selected themes more deeply, with the results contained in nine individual studies (available only in German).

Research travels – Learning from role models

In addition to the application examples, it was important to us to consider selected countries’ strategies more closely. In this regard, we found Estonia, Israel, Austria and Sweden to be countries that have exploited digitalization not only more quickly, but also more purposefully and effectively than has Germany.

We’ve summarized our impressions for you in video form:

For each country, we explored the national strategies for shaping and exploiting digital transformation and the specific geopolitical and economic contexts in which each developed. We found that despite the differences, they all share one commonality: The opportunities inherent to digitalization were recognized at a very early stage and the foundations for their exploitation were created – for instance, through the expansion of broadband networks or the development of digital skills. In each, there was and remains a marked political will in favor of implementation, which is both pragmatic and oriented toward citizens’ needs. And perhaps most importantly, each of these countries feature state, economic, academic and civil-society actors that work together intensively, constructively and pragmatically.

The award presentation – Award ceremony on 29 June 2017

As a politician who recognized digitalization’s opportunities for societal transformation at an early date, and was also able to realize this potential as Estonian president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves was awarded the Reinhard Mohn Prize 2017 on 29 June 2017.

By presenting him this award, the Bertelsmann Stiftung honors Toomas Hendrik Ilves as a thought leader and pioneer of digitalization in governance, administration and education. Particularly during his 10-year presidency (2006 – 2016), Toomas Hendrik Ilves made digital transformation in Estonia a key objective, and pursued this goal both consistently and judiciously. Today, Estonia is regarded worldwide as a model digital nation.

Reinhard Mohn Prize 2017 at a glance