08May2018

ESTONIA: THE DIGITAL SOCIETY – Kevin (FRANCE)

The Baltic country of Estonia has been engaged for nearly twenty years in the digitization of its public services. Today, it is the European country of reference.
Tallinn, the capital, has hosted a number of events as well as politicians: E. Macron, A. Merkel, the Austrian foreign minister, the prime minister of Luxembourg.. They have all visited the country with one thing in common, learning about eGovernment.

If an impressive number of world leaders headed to the small Baltic country, it is not for the beauty of its birch forests and its lakes, but for the progress of its digitization. From the end of the 90s, shortly after having acceded for the second time in its history to independence, the Estonians have decided to rely heavily on technology. Nearly twenty years later, Estonia has become a textbook case.

Electronic voting

Today, all the administrative procedures carried out by the 1.3 million inhabitants are dematerialized. There are only three exceptions, namely marriages, divorces and real estate sales. The country has faced ambitious technological challenges, and overcame them with creativity.
Its e-administration system is now based on a secure identity card which, although it is only mandatory from 15 years old, is in the pocket of 95% of inhabitants. The card is used as a means of identification for a multitude of services (more than 2,000 currently), whether to pay taxes, to pay for a bus or even to vote. As the first country to introduce e-voting possibilities in 2005, Estonia has not seen participation increase, but almost one third of the votes are now online.

98% of medical prescriptions are virtual today

During the last parliamentary election, Estonian citizens from 116 countries around the world took part, including those from 80 countries without an embassy or consulate to vote physically. Another example is that 98% of medical prescriptions are now virtual. The patient comes to the pharmacy with his ID card and the pharmacist, via a simple scan, knows what drugs to pick. For chronic conditions and allergies, the card can also be used as a permanent prescription.

Since the democratization of the smartphone, the country has adapted and shifted many of its services onto the mobile platform. The country’s telecom operators, in consultation with the government, have equipped customers with secure SIM cards. More expensive (in the range of 40 to 50% more), these chips, like those that allow mobile payment, have a secure part that contains a private cryptographic key to sign transactions with the help of a simple PIN code.
Based on several databases hosted and shared by the various administrations, the Estonian e-administration system currently mobilizes as few as 1,000 computer scientists whom work on a budget of 60 to 65 million euros per year. This is seen as a major source of inspiration for other countries like Ukraine, which is currently working on a similar type of platform, but also for France and its initative ‘French-Road’.