Estonia – from the Soviet Union to the e-government

Hardly any other country has ever introduced as many digital procedures into its daily life as Estonia has; the cellphone turns into a wallet, the computer – into a public office. All this becomes possible due to the “ID-number” assigned to each citizen which is extensively accepted as a proper identification document.


Not only tax data but also digital medical records can be viewed and managed by private individuals at any time. The transparency was primarily developed for the citizens to be able to take a look at their personal data; on the other hand, its purpose is to guarantee the inaccessibility of personal data for strangers. Thus, any citizen registered can see who has viewed his/her data and, in case of information abuse, react properly. Many Estonians have already benefited from this privilege.


Still, the possibility to cast a vote via e-voting is widely argued. It is in Estonia where the pioneer work in this field was performed. As many as 15% of the citizens were those pioneers who cast their political preference online. Though, the possibility of technical manipulations is not the only reason for which the e-voting is being criticised. It is also argued that a voter can be influenced by third parties, for example, if he/she is not alone when deciding.


Since 2014 foreign citizens can also become the so-called “e-Estonians” having paid the fee of EUR 50. This “citizenship” grants neither residence permit nor right to vote; instead, it enables to benefit from the E-Government System. People somehow connected with Estonia, for example students or businessmen, can solve their bureaucratic problems quite easier. The system is therefore based on the central element of the E-Estonia – the ID card (and number), just as for the “real” citizens.


Moreover, wireless Internet access and charge free terminals are extensively available and guaranteed for the citizens by the law. One can even found an enterprise online which takes a few minutes. No wonder that in the last years this innovations-friendly climate has created a real boom for start-ups. The globally well-known enterprise Skype can serve as a stark example of it.


The great hacker attack on different public and private organisations of 2007 did not set this development back for a long time. However, it was clearly shown that the process of digitalising also involves risks.

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