e-Estonia

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e-Estonia refers to a movement by the government of Estonia to facilitate citizen interactions with the state through the use of electronic solutions. E-services created under this initiative include i-Voting, e-Tax Board, e-Business, e-Banking, e-Ticket, e-School, University via internet, the E-Governance Academy, as well as the release of several mobile applications.[1] Furthermore, a Freedom House report published in October 2012 states that Toomas Hendrik Ilves is the head of state of the country with the freest internet in the world.

The main conclusion of this non-governmental organisation based in Washington (District of Columbia), was that there is a worldwide trend towards Internet restriction, which defines freedom in terms of access and absence of blocks on the network. [2]

In Estonia, more than 70% of the population has access to the web,[3][4] there is a sophisticated digital ID,[5] and setting up a business via the Internet is very simple and very convenient in terms of application and management.

History[edit]

In 1991, Estonia restored its independence as a sovereign nation, defeating the Soviet occupation. Prior to this, there was little in the way of technology. Under half of its population had a phone line. Following independence, the first Prime Minister Mart Laar helped push the country through a period of modernization, establishing the foundation needed to bring the country into the digital age.

Initiated in 1996, Tiigrihüpe (Estonian for Tiger Leap) was a project to heavily invest in development and expansion of computer and network infrastructure in Estonia, with a particular emphasis on education. An important primary effect of the project was rollout of Internet access to all Estonian schools.

Digital reform followed through to the present. Early during the reform, Estonia refused an offer from Finland to give it its old analogue telephone exchange for free, electing instead to build its own digital phone system. An initiative to provide schools with computers succeeded in granting every school in the country with internet access by 1998. In 2000, the government declared internet access to be a human right, causing its spread into rural areas.

System architect Tarvi Martens was described in The New Yorker as the "putative grandfather of Estonia’s digital platform".[6]

e-Residency[edit]

In late 2014 Estonia became the first country to offer electronic residency to people from outside the country, a step that the Estonian government terms as "moving towards the idea of a country without borders." Under this program, non-residents can apply to have a smart ID card issued to them by the state, providing the same access to Estonia's various electronic services that a physical resident would be given. Use of the card for authentication with these services requires a four digit pin code. The card, in conjunction with a separate pin code, also allows e-residents to digitally sign documents over the internet, a practice that is legally binding anywhere in the EU.

While e-residency provides access to these services, it does not grant physical residency, the right to enter the country, or the ability to use the smart ID card as physical identification or as a travel document.[7] It does not imply any support from the Estonian government in obtaining electronic residence.[8] It is also not a way to avoid paying taxes in the country of actual residence - istead, one becomes a taxpayer both in Estonia and in the country where one is a citizen and tax resident.

Technology[edit]

The data for e-Estonia is not stored centrally, but instead uses a data platform run by the government called X-Road to link information from local hosts.[6] The system is backed up on servers in Luxembourg, which is governed with the same protections afforded for a diplomatic mission.[6] The system is designed to allow the government of Estonia to function even in the event of an invasion by Russia.[6]

Individuals are able to access all e-Estonia data about themselves, and all queries to the system are logged.[6]

In 2017, a Czech research team found a vulnerability in the physical chips used in many of the e-Estonia cards to establish identity, leading to the cards being temporarily locked.[6]

Functions[edit]

Estonian paramedics have access to an e-ambulance app, which - via X-Road - allows medical personnel immediate access to patient medical records.[6] The system is also used for telemedicine.[6] Since 2010 e-prescription was established, nowadays 99% of medical prescriptions are handled online; routine refills can be issued without appointments. Since 2020 Proactive Child Care was introduced, meaning that parents of a newborn no longer need to apply for benefits.

e-Estonia enabled electronic voting via the i-voting app, which used an I.D.-card-based system to cast ballots remotely.[6] In 2014, approximately one-third of all votes were cast using the app.[6] Since 2000 Estonians have been able to declare taxes online. Now 98% of people declare their income electronically. In year 2022 m-Parking was also established, which is a system that enables drivers to pay for city parking via mobile phone. From 2022 e-Cabinet meetings were introduced, which reduced government bureaucracy.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "e-Estonia". Estonian Foreign Ministry and Enterprise Estonia. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
  2. ^ "Freedom on the Net 2018 / The Rise of Digital Authoritarianism / Fake news, data collection, and the challenge to democracy". Freedom House (organisation dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world).
  3. ^ "Estonia, the country with the freest internet in the world". BBC News World. 2 October 2012.
  4. ^ "90 percent of households in Estonia have internet at home". Portal ERR news. 19 September 2019.
  5. ^ "Estonia, pioneer in digital identity / Every citizen has an ID that allows them to use public and private services". Revista Mercado (Argentina). 3 May 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Heller, Nathan (December 18, 2017). "Estonia, the Digital Republic". The New Yorker. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
  7. ^ "What is e-Residency?". e-estonia.com. ICT Export Cluster. Archived from the original on April 24, 2015. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
  8. ^ (Filonenko, O. (2021, October 5). Estonian e-Residency: Pros and Cons. | Redwerk)

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]