Technology

Estonia as Digital Leader of Europe

Estonia as Digital Leader of Europe

In the recent INSEAD/WIPO Global Innovation Index, Estonia was a very creditable 25th in the league table.  The nation performed particularly strongly across digital metrics, whether in terms of the ICT education of its citizens or the sophistication of the government’s digital services, with the country of just over 1 million citizens significantly outperforming much larger peers.
 The country was also lauded as the champion of Europe for online provision of public services in the recent Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) produced by the EU, whilst it was also the leading European nation in the Global Cybersecurity Index produced by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
 Its digital prowess has come to the fore once more as it has the revolving chair of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2017.  It hopes to use the coming year to scale up the e-residency platform that was made available to non-Estonian citizens in December 2014.  For €100, you can easily become a digital resident of the country, even if you’ve never physically set foot on Estonian soil.Estonia as Digital Leader of Europe

Digital natives
 Like many European nations, Estonia has demographic challenges, with just half of its population of working age.  Immigration of the sort used by other nations is not really an option, so Estonia has instead turned to its digital prowess to lure talented people to its virtual world.To date over 20,000 people from around the world have applied, with many of them doing so to take advantage of the digital platform the Estonian government has created to support businesses, and especially the ability to open and run a global EU based company completely online, regardless of your location in the world.

 The country certainly walks the walk, with a data sharing agreement with Finland, agreed earlier this year to develop a roadmap for data sharing between the two countries, with an eventual platform created for the automatic exchange of data in various fields, including population registers, e-prescriptions, and social benefit data.
 The plan allows for the databases of both countries to be mutually available, thus supporting cross-border access to things such as digital prescriptions in the coming year, before then progressing to full medical records by 2018-2019.

 The country certainly walks the walk, with a data sharing agreement with Finland, agreed earlier this year to develop a roadmap for data sharing between the two countries, with an eventual platform created for the automatic exchange of data in various fields, including population registers, e-prescriptions, and social benefit data.
 The plan allows for the databases of both countries to be mutually available, thus supporting cross-border access to things such as digital prescriptions in the coming year, before then progressing to full medical records by 2018-2019.

 Just the beginning
 Whilst Estonia’s results to date are impressive enough that it’s working with around 40 other governments around the world, they are nonetheless just the beginning of what it hopes to achieve.
 “We are building a new digital nation for every world citizen and we invite everybody to join the e-Residency platform built on inclusion, legitimacy, and transparency. With e-Residency, we empower entrepreneurs regardless of their nationality or location – we give them access to Estonian e-services allowing the freedom to open and run a global EU company fully online from anywhere in the world,” President Kersti Kaljulaid told me recently.
 The government provides a number of tips for those seeking to follow in its footsteps:
 1: Start by creating a decentralized and distributed platform that allows existing components to be connected, and new components to be easily added, regardless of whether they’re developed by public or private entities.
 2: Make sure your procurement systems allow you to get the very best tools and systems for the job.
 3: Use systems that have already achieved success to allow them to be implemented faster.

 In the West, such a platform based approach to government has been championed most forcefully by Tim O’Reilly, with early adopters such as the UK’s Government Digital Service devotees of the approach.  Few have managed to achieve the success at scale as Estonia however, and its time as head of the Council of the European Union should be a great chance for it to showcase its work on a grander scale.

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