Estonia left the USSR in 1991, with a crippling and dependent economy, an aging population and modest funds. The country made the radical and unprecedented choice of a digital revolution.
The First of July 2017, Estonia took the presidency of the European Union for 6 months. Each country wants to leave its mark. Estonia wants to boost and bring up the Digital Agenda of the EU. With the President and the Prime Minister as spokespeople of the digital revolution, they promoted the free circulation of data. They want it to be recognized as the fifth circulation freedom within the inner European market (others are already about merchandises, services, capitals and individuals).
Due to its high level of digitalization, Estonians are especially sensitive to cyber-attacks. 10 years ago, during the 27th of April 2007, the state had a major cyber-attack (from Russian hackers), that destabilized its banking system. They now use the X-road, a blockchain system that allows decentralized transfer of data, which provides its safety. Nowadays, Estonia is leading not only the EU in terms of Cybersecurity, providing its services and innovation to NATO and the US Department of Defense.
The EU Cybersecurity Conference 2017 was recently hosted and welcomed Presidents, Prime Ministers and Home Secretaries. One of the main purpose of the meeting was the revision of the EU Cybersecurity Strategy and renewal of the ENISA mandate (European Union Agency for Network and Information Security). Estonians officials directed debates towards the digital construction of the taxes systems, net security and political transparency. During the EU CYBRID 2017, which hosted NATO officials, simulations and scenarios of cyber-attacks were resolved and debates about the different types of resolutions, communications to the medias and counter-reactions were shared.
The country became the champion of the “e-government” worldwide and is described as a “digital experimental lab”. It is the first country in the world with complete online public services. By 13, young Estonians are given an “e-card”, a digital ID, giving them access to all public services and hundreds of online private services. They can for example print a medical prescription, pay taxes, vote, talk to school professors, build a company, find and pay a parking ticket, watch their bank accounts, send post letters.
Thanks to the location-based aspect of public services, Estonia has been able to increase the well-being and safety of its citizens. In 2000, Estonia made headlines pioneering a system that instantly pinpoints the location of any mobile phone used to make an emergency call (system that does not exist nation-wide in France).
It held some revolutionary concepts towards the digitalization of our societies, like the X-road, e-Residency, ITS or e-Land.
“Join the new digital nation”
E-residency is a government issued digital ID, available to anyone in the world. E-residents can start and run a global business, with an open door to the EU Market. For 100€ and 18min, you can create a company (Estonia holds the Guinness World Record in 2009 for the fastest time to register a company).
E-Residency is even now being used by the United Nations to support developing countries in their efforts to improve access to entrepreneurship and e-commerce. The initiative, called eTrade For All, has begun its first pilot program in New Delhi, where aspiring women entrepreneurs are provided with business mentoring and the ability to start a company online through e-Residency.
With 22 000 registrations from 138 countries, e-residency has no equivalent in the world.
The e-Land Register is a web app that contains information on every ownerships and real rights for properties and land parcels. Paired with GIS, the service delivers real-time geographical data, enabling map-based visualizations, that benefits individuals and services.
The system has transformed the way property transactions are made in Estonia, eliminating long and costly visits to public offices and civil servants. The system is paper-free through e-notary and e-signature and can take up to 8 days.
The GIS systems contain cadastral information of the entire country (which is not the case today all over France for example), including addresses, area and purpose of land, ownerhips relations, encumbrances, public restrictions, right of use and others and mortgage information.
Intelligent Transportation Systems Network
Lately, individuals and industries have begun using the ITS Network (Intelligent Transportation Systems) to get the most out of their infrastructures in terms of transports and logistics. It is a public source of data available on apps and websites. Co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund, the network is initiated and directed by Estonian ICT Cluster. It unites public, non-governmental and private organizations.
It showcases Border queue management service, Port parking solutions, incident handling platform and the EyeVi Panorama View system.
The last softwares, for example, uses GIS-technology. EyeVi is a web-based application that allows its users to observe the city environments, take measurements, collect data and share the extracted information. It combines updates panoramic images, close range orthophoto, LIDAR scanning and the city’s existing spatial database to convert it into a 3D modelisation. All 3 types of views created from car mounted mobile mapping devices.
These are only few examples of the interfaces the former and actual governments have created to bring Estonia at the top position of the digital age. In the country of the “e-everything”, you can go online virtually everywhere. This USSR country started in 1991 from scratch and now leads the world of tomorrow in terms of cyber-diplomacy.
In France, Arnaud Castaignet, in charge of the Digital Communication and Numeric Strategy under the Hollande’s presidency, emigrated to Estonia and is today in charge of the e-residency public relations since July 2017. The small Baltic country embodies the soft power and new opportunities of the digital world.