After its restoration of independence in 1991, Estonia faced significant challenges including a low standard of living, limited infrastructure and a weak economy. Almost 30 years later, and with a population of just 1.3 million, Estonia is leading the world through the digital age with a bureaucratic system that puts its citizens first.
The charge was led by Taavi Rõivas, the country’s former Prime Minister and the European Union’s youngest high ranking official.
Rõivas’ time in government led to the first large-scale implementation of a Finnish-designed national identity system. Unlike Finland where the national identity system had a disappointing launch due to ID cards being optional and a prohibitively high cost for users, in Estonia, every aspect of the system puts people first.
This approach has led to one of the most efficient and streamlined bureaucratic systems in the world.
While the rest of Europe and indeed the world is still working to overhaul legacy government systems, residents of e-Estonia can file a tax return in five minutes or track their energy consumption in real time via the award-winning app Eesti Energia. Elections in the country have enabled online voting since 2005.
The system is also saving lives; paramedics now have access to an e-ambulance app which allows immediate access to patient medical records in emergencies. In addition, citizens can receive digital prescriptions from their doctors, apply for government aid, such as maternity leave, create a new company in less than 18 minutes while students can check their grades online.
The Estonian state currently offers 600 e-services to its citizens and has declared internet access a human right.
In the past decade, no breaches of security have been reported, and the system backs up to servers in Luxemburg which would allow the Estonian government to continue functioning during natural disasters or other times of upheaval.