Surfing on the rails, blending 1000 years of history

Veljo Haamer is Estonia’s most gracious tech evangelist, editor of but more specifically responsible for blanketing the country in wireless connections. He works with cities, cafes, governments, anyone, persuading them to set up routers and hotspots. Occaisionally he will get a call from an old lady in the evening, pleading with him to help her set up wireless so she can talk to her daughter in Germany on Skype. He helps, and gets paid in jam or cake.

Veljo’s latest project is transportation. I’m writing this from a hard orange plastic seat on a Soviet-era commuter train, heading out to Tallinn’s outskirts. The first carriage of all trains are Web-friendly, with the tell-tale orange sticker on the wall. Tomorrow I’ll take a business bus down to Riga, a service which, beginning today, also is wireless-enabled.

Out the window Veljo points out the buildings from the Soviet era and the Estonian First Republic, pre-WWII, in the shadow of the medieval city walls. In between them is a small pub. That’s Wi-fi connected too, he says.