If I say the phrases 'innovative' and 'digitalised', what country or city do you think of? China might spring to mind. Or San Francisco. But there's another country that should be on the top of your list, Estonia!
Estonia is the northernmost and smallest country of the three Baltic States. It's quite a small country, being on 45,227 square miles and an estimated population of 1.3 million for 2019.
This country has been at the forefront of innovation in digital technologies. They are also champions at creating digital solutions nationwide since the 2000s. This makes Estonia such an intriguing country to explore in almost any field of study you can think of. Let’s unpack this and see exactly why Estonia is an absolute champion in this space...
Information and Technology (IT)
The most noticeable area that Estonia excels in is the information technology field. As Estonia is known for being a digital society, it has some of the best practices in IT. In Estonia, there are over 3,700 IT companies! This is because they have been committed to creating digital solutions over the last decade. Some solutions created include:
- Blockchain technology
- e-governance and i-Voting
- e-Health records and e-Prescriptions
- Mobile parking
- e-Tax and e-Banking
- and MORE!
One very interesting IT solution to note is the Electronic Digital ID system. This is the most highly-developed national ID-card system in the world. It was developed in 2002, and all Estonians have a state issued digital identity. Citizens can provide digital signatures using their ID-card. This will help them to safely identify themselves and to be able to use the e-services that are available to them.
Here are some other examples of how the ID is used in Estonia:
- Legal travel ID for Estonian citizens travelling within the EU
- National health insurance card
- Proof of identification when logging into bank accounts
- For digital signature
- For i-Voting
- To check medical records, submit tax claims, etc.
- To use e-Prescriptions
In 2000, the government even made access to internet an essential human right. Because of this, wifi became free and accessible throughout the entire country.
Politics and Government
Did you know that 99% of Estonia’s public services are accessible online 24/7!? We're talking taxes, getting a birth certificate, starting a business, and so much more!
This is completely next level government efficiency. Speaking of efficiency… let's talk about the Estonian Government's tool called 'e-Cabinet'. This has completely streamlined their decision making process. According to eGovSpace, before the meeting the ministers will access the system to review the agenda. They will then decide on their position online right there before the meeting. They can then select whether they have any objections or if they want to speak further on the topic. This means decisions that have no objections are adopted without debate. This has saved hours of time and has cut the weekly meetings that used to run for 4-5 hours to only 30-90 minute meetings!
Estonia was also the first country in the world to launch i-Voting back in 2005 for a nation-wide election.
“In the case of i-Voting, the cumulative time saved in the last Estonian elections was 11,000 working days.” - E-Estonia
Did you know that the capital city, Tallinn, is often referred to as the Silicon Valley of Europe? This is because it has the highest number of startups per head of population.
“The average number of startups in Europe is 5 per 100,000 people.” - Invest in Estonia
Interestingly, Tallinn was the birthplace of the revolutionary communication technology company Skype! Other well-known businesses include TransferWise and Taxify!
Estonia is attracting many young entrepreneurs who wish to launch their own business. This is for two reasons, 1) Estonian Government supportive of technology and small businesses. And 2) the process of starting your company is incredibly simple and can be possible within 3 hours. All you have to do is apply for an e-Residency. This is a digital identity that allows digital entrepreneurs to start and manage a EU-based company online. How cool is that?!
In 2007, Estonia was the victim of the first known cyber attack on an entire country. Estonian banks' online services, media outlets and the government's online services went down. Government employees couldn't even communicate via email. Newspapers and broadcasters couldn't even deliver their online news!
This was due to unprecedented levels of internet traffic. Automated bots swamped the servers and created massive amounts of spam requests.
“Following this attack, Estonia has worked to increase their national cyber security strategy to rank first in Europe as now the leader in the field in cyber security.” - Invest in Estonia
Following these attacks, Estonia started testing out blockchain technology, which is now known as KSI. This essentially protects national data, e-services and smart devices in the public and private sector. This also ensures the integrity of data and prevents data manipulation. For more on Estonia's blockchain technology, visit here.
Did you know that Estonia has the 2nd fastest court proceedings in Europe. They also have one of the most effective court systems in the world! This can be attributed due to their automated court processes and electronic communication tools used. Estonia has completely transformed their justice system with digital solutions.
The e-File, developed in 2005, is the centralised information system that the judicial system uses. It provides data to the court system as well as to the police, jails and prosecutors. This has saved time and money as data is only entered once and the communication between parties is all electronic.
Have you heard of Estonia's e-Police system? The technology they use has increased police efficiency.
All officers have a tablet which provides instant access to vital information. This includes information on phone numbers, driving licence data, and even whether the driver owns any registered weapons.
“An average of 20 vehicles and 7 persons wanted internationally are being captured by Estonian police per day.” - E-Estonia
Before the e-Police system, queries that were originially over the radio usually took 15-20 minutes. Now they take as little as two seconds! This allows officers to be more effective in being able to answer more calls!
In Estonia, gone are the days where you walk out of your GP with your paper prescription! Say hello to e-Prescription, a system which makes issuing and handling prescriptions a breeze... for both medical professionals AND patients.
“When a doctor prescribes medicine using the system, he or she does so electronically, with the aid of an online form. At the pharmacy, all a patient needs to do is present an ID-card. The pharmacist then retrieves the patient’s information from the system and issues the medicine.” - E-Estonia
Today, 99% of prescriptions are digital, 99% of health data is digitised and 100% of billing in health care is done electronically!
Estonia’s Electronic Health record, or e-Health was introduced way back in 2008. It is similar to what Australia has recently implemented with My Health Record. With e-Health, patient records are completely digitalised. This allows a single data source for healthcare professionals.
As a nation, Estonia believes that investing in lifelong learning is critical. The aim is to develop and implement digital solutions to ensure that education and learning is as efficient and as effective as it can be!
In 1997, the Tiger Leap Foundation was launched. This organisation was tasked to ensure that schools had computers and internet access. Over 20 years, they then worked with schools to help teachers to incorporate ICT daily into the curriculum. Now, Estonia are committed to developing technological literacy from a young age. Programming and coding are even taught in primary school!
By 2020, the aim is to transform the education system so that all study materials will be available online called e-Schoolbag. To see more e-school solutions and digital education initiatives by Estonia, head here.
To top this off, higher education is free in Estonia at public universities!
We hope you've learnt about Estonia and their incredible digital society. Spend 3 weeks in January 2020 on an academic study program in Tallinn, Estonia with AIM Overseas and the University of Tallinn. Click here to learn more about the Digital Society and Innovation: From e-Commerce to e-Governance program.
Love Estonia and their digital society and can't wait to go? Start your application here!
Hello! My name is Tash and I'm the Marketing and Communications Manager at AIM Overseas. I love a good coffee, a good crime book or podcast, dogs and a solid beach sunset. Chat to me about any of these things and we'll be fast friends!