WEEK

Digital country, digital society

Estonia

You can do only three things in person in this country, two of them are marriage and divorce. You can do all other things online. All means truly all – everything that can occur to you and usually concern areas that fall within the competence of the public administration. However, that does not exhaust the explanation because private companies are part of the state digital platform as well. They also contribute to developing digital services.

Every Estonian possesses a digital ID card – it’s something like his or her ID with the chip and a card reader that gives access to the state platform. What is on this digital platform is information on, for example, education, including grades at school, health, including appointments with the doctor, income, taxes and many many more. In Estonia today already you can’t complete most formalities in person (which practically means almost none of them). State services work based on the digital platform as well.

In case of a roadside check, police review entitlements in the same portal. When you call an emergency, paramedics will use a tablet when providing medical first aid. When you are going to apply for credit, you will have the data required in the application at hand. A few clicks will let checking taxes, establish a company, check savings. In Estonia, courts work based on X-Road platform. Judges, along with lawyers and police enter data into the computers – no paperwork; there is even no need to transport a suspect to the court – teleconference is enough.

Estonians can vote online, but the system is different than that known form other countries. E-voting system is a part of the state platform. You have to log in to your account and vote. After that, the digital system removes personal data to maintain privacy and send the outcome to the election commision. Additionally, in the pre-voting time citizen can change their mind and the last vote overwrites the preceding one.

Estonian government also operates through the digital platform – it’s weekly sessions take place with tablets in hand. Ministers know the agenda of the meeting before its beginning. They click a box pointing, whether they agree with a given statement and would like to speak on the topic. What’s more, ministers don’t need to be present physically because they can use audio-visual equipment to take part in sessions remotely. Sessions participants, just like other citizens log to the portal and confirm their identity. This solution allows reducing cabinet sessions by three times – from 4-5 hours to approximately 90 minutes.

Savings that Estonia generates as a consequence of full digitalization are huge. Funds that remain annually are equal to 2 percent of its GDP – as former president of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves jokes – the country has got its national security for free because such a percentage Estonia, as a member of NATO, spend on defense.


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