Role of E-government in Estonia

Ragnar Siil

Estonians are crazy about efficiency. We have always from the very beginning from early 90‘ we have been building up very lean government, very small government structures, very low level of bureaucracy. But to do that and still to have, you know, you have a small country but still have to cover all these government roles. You need technologies. If you think about an ordinary day of Estonian then if there is a internet connection cut for 24 hours, I do not remember such a thing but let‘s imagine that happens, than I think you would find Estonians in a park or forest without direction asking for a help and thinking that the world is kind of collapsing on their shoulders.

There is a law that this every citizen has a right to contact the government using the e-signature meaning only with e-solutions. Basically there is only three times you have to actually be meeting with the government: when you are born or then when you are giving a birth, when you get married and when you die. Then somebody wants to see that this has really happen. But in any other case the government is obliged to accept it. And once you have done it, lets say we got 2 months or a year to live this life and you forget what it means to be standing in a queue. Estonians do that only maybe if they go to the concert and they really want the ticket. But you know coming from soviet background where deficit meant days and days of waiting in the lines then I think Estonians hate queuing and lines. And there is no such a concept of standing in a line for any document or a paper or something like that.

Another thing Estonians hate and which is again thought by law so in Estonian law it says that a government can ask any piece of information from its citizen once. Full stop. We all know that in many other countries you have to go and give the same type of papers to this and that and third and fourth different state authority. Sometimes you have to go to one authority to take the paper personally then take it to other. Why?! Every government sevice has the connection to the database where all you information is. So why?! Why you do you? And that means if not weeks even months it means days and days of time that you win for your family and for your business and for doing what you like.

Estonia is the only country in the world where we can vote on internet in the parliamentary elections or the municipality or European elections. Which has definitely increased the interest especially from the young people. For them it is not this mystical thing of going to the election day, election booth, taking the paper and putting the tie on. No, it is democracy. For many people they think that democracy is something you know very sacred. No, democracy should be lived everyday and to vote on internet it should be as easy as possible.

And you can continue I mean when you go to the doctor in a technological age when your doctor has an iPhone and you have an iPhone. And still in many countries to get a prescription for your drug you still need to go to the doctor. The doctor writes it down. He prints it down. You take the paper. And you take the paper physically to the pharmacy. Why? Why?! Your doctor has a computer. Your pharmacy has a computer. Why do you need to take any paper? I mean that is so last century.

Why do you have to carry your driving licence? Why? Why do you have to get fined in many country if you do not have you insurance documents with you. Your card. I mean every police has a computer. Meaning that every police it takes one click to the system which tells you if the person has a right to drive this car and if this person has an insurance. So why this papers? Meaning that from very different angles we can continue. You know from e-school to e-taxes to e-everything.

But if you live this kind of life of e-Estonian one day or two days you understand that even if there are concerns of security and sometimes system might fail, something might happen the other alternative of going back how it was, to go back to papers and queues and time-consuming bureaucracy that it is not an option.

And another thing which is not unimportant at all is that Estonia is one of the least corrupted countries in the world the least corrupted in Central and Easter European countries. Why? Because there are not really many ways to be corrupted. Everything is online. You do not need to pay any officer to get a document. You do not need an officer to get a document anymore, etc. So that means more trust for the system, more transparency. It is quick. It is easy. It is cheaper. And success brings more success. If you have got one good solution that works you trust the next one more.

And Estonia is not only doing these solutions but Estonia is also mobilizing or capitalizing or consolidating let’s call it that way, consolidating its position. Yes, we are the home from Skype. But also Estonia is now the home for European Union headquarters for the IT Agency. We are the home for the NATO headquarters for cyber defence. So really it is not only that we do businesses here and then next to our neighbour being very vulnerable. But we also want to have European policy-making here. We want to have the security systems to be developed here, structured here. And I think this all has a major spill-over effect to the creative economy as well. When as I said 62% of increase of turnovers of the digital economy in the last 4 years in the games industry. Of course we are nearly not as good as our neighbours Finns. But it is still growing business, growing spin-offs. And I think Estonia should really keep on doing this.

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