In a very short space of time, Estonia has established itself as a world leader in citizen-focused digital public services. From e-governance and digital identities, to interne access as a basic human right, the country has pioneered the idea of a secure, technology driven new economy.
During a recent visit to Scotland, Estonian ambassador Tiina Intelmann, took time to talk to Blockchain Beyonce (aka Wallet.Services Iona Murray) about the country’s position as a digital trendsetter.
The pair discuss the country’s focus on digital services and the Estonian ambition that every citizen should actually enjoy interacting with the state – even when it comes to paying taxes.
Ms Intelmann reveals the reasons behind the country’s decision to focus on creating a secure, citizen-owned universal identity and perhaps weirdly, for a government it came down to common sense – and cost.
After the country gained its independence, the opportunity to create a new system of its own arose. The chance to create a single e-identity for all citizens, which could be used across all systems, simply made sense – and was more cost effective than trying to replicate the multiple independent silos and systems which many other countries suffer from.
Trust in government…?
The whole system, as Ms Intelmann, points out, is based on trust. Citizens enjoy a level of trust in the government, simply because they can see what and who has accessed their data and make decisions based on that that visibility.
In turn, the government understands it has to maintain that trust in order to ensure all citizens are making those informed decisions.
The outcome is an entirely different relationship between the population of Estonia and the government and a system which, according to the ambassador where citizens ‘enjoy interacting with the state’ and even paying taxes, thanks to the simplicity and visibility.
Clearly, it’s a different world from the one most of us live in…
Estonia is now attempting to export it’s digital success with the creation of an e-governance academy to enable other countries to learn from the Estonian system, as well as new e-residency programme, which allows non-residents to access services in the country such as company registration, banking and taxation.
For residents of countries which have yet to embrace a digital-first approach (i.e. every other country in the world), where bureaucracy and siloed state information is inaccessible and scattered, it’s an eye-opening interview.
Oh and the country has made Internet access a basic human right…
Welcome back, Beyonce – and thank you Madam Ambassador, we’re off to register as e-citizens.