How did Estonia become the most advanced digital society in the world?

Estonia is a northern European country nestled on the eastern shore of the Baltic sea, across from the Gulf of Finland. Its population is just 1.3 million — the same as the state of New Hampshire — making it one of the least populous member states within the European Union.

Last year, Wired Magazine named Estonia the most advanced digital society in the world. E-Estonia is a term used to describe the rise of Estonia as one of the most innovative, forward-thinking information societies globally. The advancements that Estonia has contributed to the movement toward a digital government is admirable and should be used as a framework for what can happen when safe and easy-to-use e-services ecosystems are used as a platform to streamline public services, connect with systems, and create innovative e-solutions for governments and businesses at a municipal, federal, and international level.

Here are some public services that Estonia has digitized for citizens:

Identity

Through E-Identity, 98% of Estonian citizens can create and have access to their own digital identity. With this asset, a citizen can digitally sign documents and verify their identity across all public services.

Information Sharing

Through X-Road, the public and private sectors can share information and collaborate with one another daily. Data that a citizen has requested is linked to their identity and can be accessed if needed in the future, like filling out a form at your bank or doctor’s office.

Public Safety

Through E-File, the public service can facilitate the exchange of information between the various information systems that may exist within a court case: policy, courts, legal offices, the legal aid system, tax boards, and more.

Health Care

Through the E-Patient Portal, doctors can have access to a centralized version of a citizen’s records from one electronic file. In an emergency situation, a doctor can use a patient’s ID code to access the entirety of that individual’s medical history, including recent treatments and medications.

Voting

Through I-Voting, voters have the ability to cast their ballots from a device connected to the internet, anywhere in the world. The voters’ identification information is removed from the ballot before it reaches the electoral commission.

It is estimated that I-Voting saves over 11,000 working days per election.

Travel

Through ‘border queue management’, those travelling in a vehicle through a border checkpoint are able to reserve a time slot at the checkpoint of their choice. Border wait times are now only 30 minutes long.

Furthermore, 90% of parking in Estonia is now done through a downloadable mobile parking application.

Banking

Through E-Banking, over 99% of all banking transactions in Estonia are completed online. Opening an account can also be carried out online, with an e-ID, facial recognition technology, and an interview recording.

Education

Through E-School, teachers and parents can communicate, collaborate, and record information related to students. Teachers can enter grades, attendance, and post homework, while students and parents can keep up to date on evaluations, assessments, and attendance.

85% of schools are currently using e-school.

What does the future hold for the most advanced digital society in the world?

Estonia is in the spotlight again with E-Residency. Through E-Residency, anyone in the world can apply to become a resident of Estonia, so that entrepreneurs around the world can benefit from an advanced digital infrastructure filled with opportunity.

“In the future, it is believed that countries will compete for e-residents based on the quality of their public e-services and their business environment.”

The key to the success of E-Estonia? Continuous experimentation. Claiming the title of the most advanced digital society in the world is a result of making mistakes, learning from them, and evolving their e-services into every day interfaces that citizens actively rely upon each day.

co-founder @ disco innovation studio. writing thoughtful dialogue on the design of everyday interfaces + experiences.

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