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The Future Is Now

e-Estonia The Future Is Now




Northern Europe


(southern shore of the Gulf of Finland)





1.3 million





45 227 sq. km










Parliamentary democracy


European Union, NATO, WTO, OECD GREECE




e-Estonia The Future Is Now





e-Estonia The Future Is Now

INSPIRED BY INFORMATION Estonia is an incredible success story grown out of a partnership between a forward-thinking government, a pro-active ICT sector and a switched-on, tech-savvy population. The success of Estonia stems from its role as an insightful and courageous implementer of new ideas and technologies. An idea in itself is never enough, no matter how dazzling a potential it carries. An idea needs to be employed in order to foster public interaction and living conditions on a truly large scale. Through the wide range of state procurements, the companies from the Estonian ICT Export Cluster have done exactly that - they have built up the spectacular e-Estonia as we know it.

LIFE IN THE DIGITAL SOCIETY e-Estonia means casting a ballot from the comfort of your own living room. It means filing your income tax return in just five minutes or signing a legally-binding contract over the Internet from anywhere in the world via your mobile phone. These are just a few of the services that Estonians take advantage of on a regular basis. Entrepreneurs can register businesses in as little as 20 minutes, check vital company, property and legal records online, and even integrate their own secure services with the ones offered by the state. Interaction among government agencies, and between the government and citizens, has been completely transformed in e-Estonia, quickly making bureaucracy a thing of the past.


DIGITAL SOCIETY AND INFRASTRUCTURE The e-Estonia digital society is made possible largely due to its infrastructure. Instead of developing a single, all-encompassing central system, Estonia created an open, decentralized system that links together various services and databases. The flexibility provided by this open set-up has allowed new components of digital society to be developed and added through the years. That power to expand has allowed Estonia to grow into one of Europe’s success stories of the last decade.

ESTONIA’S E-SOLUTIONS HAVE RESULTED IN: » An unprecedented level of transparency and accessibility in government » Safe, convenient and flexible exchange of private, government and corporate data » A healthier, better educated population with an easy access to social services » A prosperous environment for business and entrepreneurship

PRINCIPLES BEHIND DIGITAL FOUNDATION » DECENTRALIZATION There’s no central database and every stakeholder, be it a government department, a ministry or a business, gets to choose its own system in its own time. » INTERCONNECTIVITY All the elements in the system must be able to work together smoothly. » OPEN PLATFORM Any institution can use the infrastructure. » OPEN-ENDED PROCESS A continuous project which keeps growing and improving organically. » INFRASTRUCTURE A flexible and open system linking together various databases.


e-Estonia The Future Is Now

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN E-ESTONIA Estonia has by far the most highly-developed electronic ID system in the world, providing secure access to a range of online services

In 2005, Estonia became the first country in the world to make internet voting available in a nationwide election

DID YOU KNOW THAT... » Estonia has become a hotbed of software innovation. Amongst other groundbreaking solutions, Skype was developed here » Tallinn is home to NATO’s Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence » In 2012 European IT Agency opened doors in Tallinn

99% of bank transfers are performed electronically

95% of tax returns are filed via the e-Tax Board

98% of medicines are prescribed electronically

In the 2014 EU Parliament elections, 31% of votes were cast over the internet

On December 1 2014, Estonia became the first country in the world to offer e-Residency


INTERNET IN ESTONIA » free Wi-Fi is widespread in urban areas, particularly in Tallinn, which has been named among the top ten cities on the globe for Wi-Fi convenience » 100% of schools and government organizations have broadband connection » 4/5 of the population have a computer at home » 80% of homes have broadband connection » various 3G and 4G networks available anywhere across the country


Estonia is the first country to offer e-Residency – secure government backed digital identity, which allows everyone to enjoy the government and business services that Estonia has developed since the 1990s. The transnational digital identity is available to anyone around the world interested in establishing and administering a location-independent business online. By providing e-Residency, Estonia is unleashing the world’s entrepreneurial potential.

E-RESIDENTS CAN: » Establish a company online in a day » Administer the company from anywhere in the world » Conduct e-banking and remote money transfers » Access online payment service providers » Declare Estonian taxes online


» Digital identification and authentication to secure services » Digital signing of documents » Digital verification of document authenticity » Document encryption Digital signatures and authentication are legally equivalent to handwritten signatures and face-to-face identification in Estonia, as well as between partners upon agreement anywhere around the world. e-Residency does not confer citizenship, tax residency, residence or right of entry to Estonia or to the EU. The e-Resident digi-ID is not a physical identification or a travel document and does not display a photo. The Estonian Government is developing e-Residency like a startup. This revolutionary program was launched fast and agile and is being constantly improved and extended. Everybody is invited to apply and help develop it for the new e-Estonian – a new kind of digital and global citizen.

These efficient and easy-to-use services have been available to Estonians for over a decade. By offering eResidents the same services, Estonia is proudly pioneering the idea of a country without borders. HOW TO APPLY?

It is possible to apply for e-Residency at anywhere in the world. Once the application is approved, just one face-to-face meeting is required to collect the card from one of Estonia’s foreign representations in 34 countries.


e-Estonia The Future Is Now





e-Estonia The Future Is Now

X-Road is the all-important connection between the e-services, the tool allowing them to work together for maximum impact.

All Estonian e-solutions which need to interact with multiple other databases systems use X-Road.    

X-ROAD THE BACKBONE OF E-ESTONIA The X-Road is a critical tool, one of the key ingredients in e-Estonia’s infrastructure that connects all the decentralized components of the system together. It’s the environment that allows the nation’s various e-services and databases, both in the public and private sector, to link up and operate in harmony no matter what platform they use. ARCHITECTURE: » Distributed architecture without a centralized controller » Every government agency or business can choose the e-service that’s right for them » Services can be added one at a time, as they are ready  


KEY ELEMENTS OF E-ESTONIA’S INFRASTRUCTURE ELECTRONIC ID CARD Estonia has the most highly-developed national ID card system in the world. Much more than simply a legal picture ID, this mandatory national card (from the age 15 onwards) serves as a digital access card for every secure e-service in Estonia. The chip on the card carries embedded files which, using 2048-bit public key encryption, enable it to be used as definitive proof of ID in an electronic environment. The electronic ID Card was introduced in 2002 and by 2014 more than 93% of the Estonian residents were carrying one.



» As a national ID card for legal travel within the EU and Schengen Area » As a national health insurance card » As proof of identification when logging into bank accounts from a home computer » As a customer loyalty card » For digital signatures » For i-Voting » For accessing government databases to check one’s medical records, to file taxes, etc. » For picking up e-Prescriptions

Mobile-ID is a service that allows to use your mobile phone as a form of secure electronic ID. Like the ID Card, it can be used for accessing secure e-services and digitally signing documents, but with the advantage of not requiring a card reader. The system is based on a specialized Mobile-ID SIM card attainable from the mobile phone operator. Private keys are stored on the mobile SIM card along with a small application for authentication and signing.

SOCIETY OF E-SOLUTIONS CITIZENS STATE E-SERVICES PORTAL The State Portal is a website that acts as a one-stop-shop for the hundreds of e-services offered by various government institutions. The portal is divided into different sections – one for citizens, one for entrepreneurs, and one for officials – making it easy for the user to find the service he is looking for. Once logged into the system with an electronic ID, the user does not have to repeat the log in when accessing different services. The site also creates awareness of other e-services available, as visitors will discover new options whilst browsing through it. 15

e-Estonia The Future Is Now

GOVERNMENT E-CABINET E-Cabinet is a multi-user database and a scheduler that keeps relevant information organized and updated in real time, while offering ministers a clear overview of each item under discussion. Once Estonia adopted its e-Cabinet system, the average length of the weekly cabinet meetings was cut from 4-5 hours to just 30-90 minutes. Not only can ministers take part remotely, but the government has also eliminated the need to print and deliver thousands of pages of documents each week. I-VOTING I-Voting is a system that allows voters to cast their ballots from any internet-connected computer from anywhere in the world. Unrelated to the electronic voting systems used elsewhere which often involve costly and problematic machinery, the 16

Estonian solution is simple, elegant and secure. In 2005, Estonia became the first nation in history to offer internet voting in a nationwide election. The groundbreaking i-Voting system allows citizens to vote at their convenience, no matter how far they are from a polling station. As an added benefit, making the process easy and

accessible increases voter turnout. Already in 2005, Estonia made headlines as the first country to use i-Voting in local elections. In the 2014 EU Parliament elections, 31% of voters cast their ballots via the i-Voting system.

As a critical tool for the real estate market, it provides total transparency whilst listing the registered owner of each property holding together with the latter’s boundaries, and provides other necessary information that potential buyers need to obtain.

E-TAX E-CUSTOMS E-Tax is the electronic tax filing system set up by the Estonian Tax and Customs Board. Since its introduction in 2000, it has drastically reduced the time spent by individuals and entrepreneurs on filing taxes. In 2002, the system matured tremendously with automated tax declaration forms. Using a secure ID, a taxpayer logs into the system, reviews his data in the pre-filled forms, makes necessary changes, and approves the document with a digital signature. The process typically takes five minutes and when filed electronically, the taxpayer obtains his tax refund in about five days.

e- Customs is a fully automated information system of the Estonian Tax and Customs Board‘s that connects traders with customs over the Internet. e-Customs has saved Estonia considerable amounts of money each year. Declarations take less time now and any inaccuracies can be corrected before the data is submitted, lessening the need for customs supervision. Fully electronic declarations processed in real time, less required documents and the reduction of traders’ and customs’ costs earned Estonia the 4th position on World Bank list of countries where trading across borders is easy.

In 2014, 95% of tax returns were filed electronically. ELECTRONIC LAND REGISTER Electronic Land Register is a one-of-a-kind web application containing information on all ownership relationships concerning real estates and land parcels.


Cadastral information - address, area, purpose of land Ownership relations Encumbrances, restrictions, rights of use, other notations Mortgage information


e-Estonia The Future Is Now

FUNCTIONS: TEACHERS enter grades and attendance information into the system, post homework assignments and evaluate student behavior. They also use it to send messages to parents, students or to an entire class. PARENTS use it to stay closely involved in their children’s education. They can see their children’s homework assignments, grades, attendance information and teacher’s notes, as well as communicate directly with teachers via the system. STUDENTS can read their own grades and keep track of their homework assignments on a daily basis. They can also keep their best work in personal e-portfolios.


DISTRICT ADMINISTRATORS have access to the latest statistical reports on demand, making it easy to consolidate data across the district’s schools.

E-SCHOOL E-School has revolutionized the way students, teachers and parents interact. Estonia has revolutionized the way an education is administered and has helped to create a generation that is both better educated and tech-savvy. In 2013, over 85% of schools were using e-School, covering about 95% of all grade school students. In addition, the innovation of education incorporates everyday iPad usage into regular school work, helping youngsters to grasp the functions of touch screen technology at an early age. Apart from becoming technologically capable, the new generation of students are right now building the basis for a a new paradigm of a more personal and integrated form of studying when it comes to either their fellow students or the lessons being covered. In autumn 2011, an application for all the necessary study materials was launched for e-School, making all the textbooks and exercise books accessible from all over the world. 18

HEALTHCARE E-PRESCRIPTION E-Prescription is a centralized, paperless system for issuing and handling medical prescriptions. The efficient system to which every hospital and pharmacy in Estonia is connected, cuts down on paperwork and doctor visits, and saves an untold amount of time and effort. Doctors prescribe medicine electronically and 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 fills the prescription. ELECTRONIC HEALTH RECORD Electronic Health Record is a nationwide system that integrates data from Estonia’s different healthcare providers, creating a common record for each patient.

BUSINESS DIGITAL SIGNATURE Digital ID, one of the world’s most advanced digital signature systems, is the nationally standardized system for verifying a person’s identity in an online environment. It opens the door to all secure e-services while maintaining the highest level of security and trust. One can digitally sign documents either with an ID Card or the Mobile-ID.

It’s a powerful tool for doctors, granting them easy access to patient records from a single electronic file. Doctors can read test results as soon as they are entered, including image files such as X-rays. In case of emergencies, doctors can use a patient’s ID Card to read time-critical information.

In March 2000, a law was passed in the Parliament giving electronic signatures the same legal weight with the traditional paper signatures. Thus, the nation’s groundbreaking electronic ID infrastructure has created an effective and universal system for secure identification.

Patients have access to their own records, as well as those of their children. By logging into the Patient Portal (with an ID Card), they can review their past doctor visits and current prescriptions, control which doctors have access to their files, and even receive general health advice.


No need to send paper documents, saves time and courier costs Lower environmental impact Documents remain private Documents can be signed from every corner of the world via mobile phone


e-Estonia The Future Is Now

DigiDoc Client is a MS Windows application for creating and verifying digitally signed files. The proof of validity of the signer’s certificate is obtained at the time of signature creature and DigiDoc Client verifies the digitally signed file automatically on opening. E-BUSINESS REGISTER

Estonia’s digital signature system has paved the way for some of its most useful e-services, including Company Registration Portal, the i-Voting system, electronic tax filing and DigiDoc. DIGIDOC

You can register a company over the internet just in minutes and do any needed procedures (change, merge, reporting, etc.) over the internet using digital signatures and ID technology.

DigiDoc is a system for storing, sharing and digitally signing documents.


After logging into the DigiDoc system (with an ID Card or Mobile-ID), the user can upload any document, sign it digitally and forward it to other parties. Any type of file can be entered for signature – a word processing document, a photo or even an instant messaging chat; voice recordings can be uploaded by phone. Every time users log on, they see their uploaded files as well as those they have signed. DigiDoc utilizes the robust public key encryption of the Estonian ID Card and Mobile-ID, and meets the EU’s strictest standards of security.


Transparent e-Business Register provides actual and adequate online information on all profit and nonprofit organizations, including political parties, and on persons related to any business activities. Thousands from banks up to law enforcement, or just citizens, use the services of e-Business Register at any moment of the day. When in need to find a business partner, to check a company’s income report or credibility, to confirm a role of a chairman or a shareholder, or to find links of people on the basis of companies - one can just turn to the Business Register online.

» entirely paperless institution » e-services are offered for any related needs » public institutions can’t ask registering documents from companies - the screen is the law » annual reports and other documents may be delivered to the Registry only in electronic way, through the e-Business Register » all the information is public E-Business Register guarantees clean and honest businessenvironment providing reliable information and effective e-services for everybody - public institutions, companies and individuals.

TELECOMMUNICATION MOBILE PAYMENT Mobile Payment is a feature that allows customers to pay for goods and services using their mobile phones in place of credit cards. The system can also be used for payments on public transport, in shops and pubs, and for buying products from vending machines. Typically, the client dials the mobile payment service number, and enters the merchant’s code and the amount of the payment or the product code. The bank then transfers money to the merchant’s account within three days, charging a service fee. At the end of the month, the mobile payment bill is displayed separately on the client’s phone bill.

Mobile Parking (m-Parking) is a convenient system that lets drivers pay for their city parking using their mobile phones.

zone’s code to the system’s operator. If the police check the vehicle’s registration number in their database, they will see that parking has been paid for. On leaving, the driver can once again use the application or make a short call to the operator.

On parking, the majority of drivers use an application on their phone or sometimes still send an SMS with the parking

At the end of the month, the cost of parking is added to the driver’s mobile phone bill.


LOCATION-BASED SERVICES Location-Based Service (LBS) is any service that can determine the location of a mobile device and provide information based on that location. Estonia’s most impressive development in LBS has taken place in the area of positioning services. In 2000, Estonia made headlines by pioneering a system that can instantly pinpoint the location of any GSM mobile phone that is used to make an emergency call. The system has become an invaluable tool for Estonia’s rescue workers who would otherwise have trouble locating victims calling from remote areas. 21

e-Estonia The Future Is Now

LBS systems also provide location data for several geographical information systems (GIS) which deliver visual representations of the database information on a map. GIS systems give the user an easy-to-see overview of the information, all the while keeping all vital details available at the click of a mouse.

LAW ENFORCEMENT AND E-POLICE BEST POSSIBLE COMMUNICATION E-Police system involves two main tools: a mobile workstation installed in each patrol car, and a positioning system that shows the location and status of every officer to the headquarters. Every patrol car in the country is equipped with a mobile workstation that provides officers with instant access to multiple key databases. That means they’ll not only see criminal records, but also relevant information from the State Registry of Service and Civil Weapons, the Motor Vehicle Registration Centre, the Traffic Insurance Fund and the Population Register – all arriving in just two seconds. 22

The positioning system gives the command center real-time information on the location and status of every patrol car. Also, a separate positioning system allows the police to quickly pinpoint the origin of an emergency call made from a mobile phone – a crucial necessity when dispatching rescue services to remote areas. Law enforcement institutions are well equipped with crime analysis tools which are effectively used in public registers and police databases. As a result, more crime schemes are defined, more criminals convicted and the sophisticated Register of Prisons and Prisoners is kept up-to-date.

ment of Critical Information Infrastructure Protection (CIIP) evaluates the security of information systems in Estonia and carries out risk assessments. The Computer Emergency Response Team Estonia (CERTEE) handles security incidents within the .ee domain. The team is engaged any time there is a cyber-attack against Internet sites or services in Estonia, or when a malware infection is spreading from Estonian computers. In latter case, the team also has the capability and skills to reverseengineer the malware. CERT played a central role in successful cyber defence in 2007, when Estonia experienced massive cyber attacks.

CYBERSECURITY Digital societies are built on security and trust. With heavy investments in its cybersecurity infrastructure, Estonia has developed extensive expertise in that area, becoming one of the most recognized and valued cybersecurity experts internationally. The Estonian Information System’s Authority (EISA) helps organizations from private and public sector to maintain the security of their information systems, whereas the Depart-

Estonia is also home to the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Center of Excellence (CCDCoE). The country serves as an international NATO Competence Center, providing the members and partners of NATO with cybersecurity expertise, educational and training resources, and assistance in policy development. Estonia was specifically chosen as the site for the CCDCoE due to its expertise in the areas of cybersecurity and e-government. Estonia’s achievements in cybersecurity have benefited from a strong IT partnership between the public and private sector. This unique spirit of cooperation created the Cyber Defence League – a volunteer organization tasked with assisting the nation during a cyber-attack. The Cyber Defence League


e-Estonia The Future Is Now

comprises IT security experts, software developers, legal professionals, and management specialists from the nation’s top IT companies, banks, Internet Service Providers, and defense forces.

built hardware and software to detect network intrusions, S4A is helping network administrators to identify infected computers, while CERT-EE provides assistance with the containment and cleaning up of the source of the attack.

The key to Estonia’s cybersecurity lies in the safety and security inherent in every e-Government and IT infrastructure system engineered in Estonia. The secure 2048-bit encryption that powers the country’s electronic ID, digital signatures, and systems connected to the X-Road data exchange layer guarantees unparalleled protection for personal identity and personal data in e-Estonia.


THE S4A INTRUSION DETECTION SYSTEM S4A relies on a nation-wide network of sensors designed to monitor threat situations in multiple organizations over the Internet. By providing organizations of any size with purpose-


Estonian Virtual Situation Room supports people in making decisions concerning the anticipation, avoidance, withstanding, minimization and recovery from the effects of manmade or natural disasters. The Virtual Situation Room collects and visualizes data about critical services such as electricity, communications, and water supply, thereby providing real-time information crucial for the making of informed decisions and allocating the necessary resources during critical situations.

UTILITIES SAVING ENERGY FOR A CLEANER ENVIRONMENT Estonia’s active climate for innovation has led to the development of clever tools for the utilities and intelligent homes industries. These not only allow energy providers to serve their customers better, but give homeowners more options for savings and result in a cleaner environment. Using technologies developed in Estonia, electricity providers can take a holistic approach to customer care, since the smart meters allow them to monitor each customer’s consumption on an hourly basis. Then, by logging into a web-based interface, the customers can in turn see their detailed metering results and adjust their usage accordingly.

WORKING HAND IN HAND The system controlling the smart metering and customer interface is also linked to the utility company’s billing, saving the company time and money, and further reducing environmental impact. Additionally, the utilities systems have the capacity to work together with intelligent homes and buildings systems, allowing them to operate more efficiently. Estonian intelligent buildings systems, which allow users to monitor and control vital functions of the building such as heating, lighting and security, are fully integrated and rely less on expensive hardware for their interfaces. The use of such systems results in 30-50% energy savings over the lifetime of a building.


e-Estonia The Future Is Now

SMART GRID AND ENERGY SECTOR Benefiting distributors, consumers and our environment, Estonian entrepreneurs and software developers have created smart metering and billing management software which allows end users to monitor their consumption in real time, compare the various packages available and even choose how much of their energy will come from renewable sources. The system can predict when an area’s electricity supply is likely to be strained, and automatically forward customers instant bonus offers for cutting their consumption during those times, thereby smoothing peaks and troughs in the local grid. Local innovators have also taken a new approach to smart homes, developing systems that integrate electrical, heating and security systems to a level not seen elsewhere. These


systems are designed to maximize energy efficiency, which saves the homeowner money and is much friendlier on the environment than older methods of home management. Kelvingi village on the north coast of Estonia is already equipped with Smart Grid technologies enabling better realtime energy consumption management and creating possibilities for partial energy autonomy from the central electrical grid. With the help of real-time consumption monitoring and prognosis (the energy consumption is measured on an hourly basis), it is possible to save up to 25% on the energy bill. The Smart Grid enables to integrate the micro wind and solar power generators into the system and allows to take part in power trading with one’s neighbours. Smart Grid supports the strategy for a future low-carbon society and will be accessible to the entire country by 2016.

SOCIAL SECURITY AND WELFARE Accessing the system through the State Portal, an individual can apply for maternity benefits or a worker’s disability compensation without leaving home. Whereas earlier, an applicant would have visited a number of different offices to collect various documents proving their eligibility, then now, records from hospitals, the health insurance fund and other institutions are integrated via X-Road, eliminating the applicant’s need to visit those institutions in person.

It contains the names, ID codes, birth dates, places of residence and other statistical data (nationality, native language, education and profession) of every resident. Each resident can in turn review and correct his data in the registry. X-Road connects the register to other systems, so when a person applies for childbirth or study allowances, or discounted tickets on public transport, data is retrieved from the Population Register.

POPULATION REGISTER Population Register is the state’s database for holding basic information about each person living in Estonia.


e-Estonia The Future Is Now





e-Estonia The Future Is Now

THE PLACE TO SEE ESTONIAN ICT IN ACTION e-Estonia Showroom’s purpose is to showcase the nation’s ICT solutions all in one facility, to illustrate their usage possibilities both in private and public sector and to provide visitors with hands-on examples of what they are and how they work. The bustling showroom has hosted everyone from presidents and ministers to CEOs and journalists – essentially anyone who has needed a better understanding of the technology developed and used.


OPENING TIMES upon request

DELEGATION SIZE up to 50 people



LOCATION Ülemiste City, five minute drive from the airport, 10-minute drive from Tallinn city center. Additional information and bookings at

ADDRESS Tallinn, Lõõtsa 2a, ground floor



e-Estonia The Future Is Now





e-Estonia The Future Is Now

On 2020 using smart ICT solutions everywhere will be the primary contributor for successful development of Estonia’s economy and society. The common denominator for Estonian ICT companies is their efficiency, creativity and the ability to ignore the concept of impossible. Estonian Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications (ITL) is an organisation, whose primary objective is to unite the Estonian information technology and telecommunications companies, to promote their co-operation in Estonia’s development towards information society, to represent and protect the interests of its member companies and to express their common positions.




» within the ITL and ICT sector as a whole » with the public sector institutions (state, schools, universities) » with the other economic branches » on international level

» » » » »

popularisation of ICT promotion of vocational education amendment of legislation cooperation with other economic sectors international cooperation and export


81 members 75% of Estonian ICT sector turnover is generated by ITL members more information can be found at or contac us:

CLUSTERING IN ICT INDUSTRY There are two industry clusters, which are acting in close co-operation with ITL. The cluster activities are funded by European Structural Funds and Tallinn Enterprise Board.

» organising the field’s marketing and communication activities, joint marketing of the field » organising cooperation seminars, workshops and think tanks with other economic branches FACTS ABOUT ESTONIAN ICT SECTOR (YEAR 2013): ICT companies


Average number of employers 18 970 Turnover of ICT sector

3 680 Million Euro

Share of ICT sector in economy (turnover)


Value Added per Employee

30 400 Euro

Source: Statistics Estonia ICT sector is: Software industry, Other IT, Electronic industry, Telecommunications

Estonian ICT Cluster is mainly concentrated to the co-operation with other economic branches. Through that they aim to foster the development of new solutions and the creation of new products, and to improve the companies’ competitive ability in the international market. Estonian ICT Export Cluster is a project to foster the export of ground-breaking e-solutions that have been developed and implemented in Estonia. THE KEY ACTIVITIES OF THE CLUSTERS ARE: » developing cooperation between partner companies and universities » forecasting the need for workforce and contributing to the development of curricula 35

e-Estonia The Future Is Now





e-Estonia The Future Is Now

THE E-ESTONIA OF 2020 What will the next few years bring for e-Estonia? With technology advancing so rapidly and global market conditions always in flux, it’s a difficult forecast to make. Given the country’s existing array of e-services and, even more crucially, the trust in them that the public has developed, some insiders are predicting that the country will pull even further ahead as the world’s trendsetter for e-solutions. But whether Estonia keeps that top spot is more a matter of local pride than a policy goal. The real task ahead is ensuring that high-level development in the public sector continues, that the services offered improve the lives of the citizenry and that the ecosystem necessary for new technologies to emerge remains fertile. Nobody can know the future, but we can plan for it. As the line between public and private sector ICT becomes increasingly blurred with the sharing of technology, talent and manpower, it will be up to both the government and businesses to stay on top of the changes in the tech world and keep the country competitive. 38

built. There is little doubt that, by 2020, the kinds of applications most businesses and households use will require far more bandwidth than they do today, and the increased capacity will also pave way for services such as telemedicine and the possibility to connect more devices – from household appliances to factory robots – to the net.

DIGITAL AGENDA The original push for Estonia to go digital back in the 1990s, and hence the creation of e-Estonia, came from the government, so it’s no surprise that the government is taking an active role in making sure the process continues. Its goals for the coming years are set out in a document, the Estonian Information Society Development Plan 2020, which focuses on making sure the environment remains ripe for easy use of ICT and the creation of smart solutions. It outlines specific projects and initiatives designed to further the process, most of them tied to infrastructure, investment and policy. In addition to these, state experts have ideas, both on and off the books, for where they expect public sector developments to come. WORK IN PROGRESS Part of the plan for 2020 involves completing projects that have already begun. Among the most high-profile of these is the construction of a superfast basic Internet network that would give all the country’s residents, no matter where they live, the possibility to connect at speeds of 100 Mbps. To date, about one-third of the 6,500 km system has been

Another natural step in the evolution of the e-state would be to move basic services into a fully digital environment, eliminating the need to maintain facilities for in-person interaction. For example, as the public’s use of digital services for operations such as tax filing approaches 100 percent saturation, it becomes costly to continue investing to provide non-digital services those few who have not yet made the transition. The hope is that by 2020, a system will be in place whereby those who are still not interacting online will be provided assistance, either through a social worker, at a point at a post office or via some other scheme, so that efficiency is maintained while nobody is left out. FRESHENING UP AND MOVING FORWARD As technology changes, even the best services have to be renewed. Users are moving on. The world is moving on. For that reason, Estonia plans to implement a “no legacy principle,” meaning the public sector should have no important ICT solutions that are more than 13 years old. There are many practical reasons for such a policy, ranging from the costs involved in maintaining systems that have taken on “spaghetti architecture” – being overly complicated through years of patching and adjustments by programmers – to the simple fact that, as technology marches forward, newer systems become better. In addition, as worldwide ICT culture develops and changes, public e-services will have to keep pace, delivering the same quality of user experience that clients have come to expect elsewhere. This issue has already arisen with the move from desktop and laptop computers to tablets and mobile devices, as well as the ongoing shift in Estonia from using card readers to Mobile-ID. 39

e-Estonia The Future Is Now

promotion, and by encouraging more foreign tech companies and international institutions to bring their operations and staff to Estonia, the state hopes to boost the ICT knowledge cluster that is now developing in the country. CROSSING BORDERS No country, especially a small country like Estonia, can operate in isolation. As the business world becomes increasingly global and the population more mobile, the need for truly international e-services becomes all the more pressing. To that end, much of the state’s ICT development agenda for the 2014-2020 period focuses on laying the groundwork for creating such connectivity. Parallel to keeping existing services up to date will be improving and expanding what’s on offer in various public sector fields. One area that has a large potential for further development is e-Health. So far, the systems in place have been directed towards creating easy, instant access to records and reports, but some planners foresee the increased integration of realtime monitoring into the system, use of telemedicine and an emphasis on prevention. It could be that, in the near future, patients will be testing their blood sugar levels at home, recording their diet and exercise habits, uploading the data and consulting with their GPs, all online. Likewise, public education could see radical changes as more content is made digital and teachers are given better tools for class management, while intelligent transport systems monitor traffic flow and make it easier for us to get from A to B. Of course, none of this development can take place without developers, so the question of manpower becomes crucial. For that reason among others, the government’s plan foresees doubling the number of people employed in the nation’s ICT sector by 2020. Through investments in education and


Imagine an ER doctor in Sweden being able to instantly access the medical records of a patient from Hungary. Or a company executive in Italy digitally signing a contract with a counterpart in the UK. Or an Estonian construction worker submitting his tax records to the Finnish authorities with the click of a mouse. Before such cross-border services become a reality, many technical and administrative hurdles will have to be overcome. An Estonian initiative, the Nordic e-Governance Basic Infrastructure Innovation Institute, has been set up so that countries can join forces in this effort, and don’t have to repeat the work of the others in creating the necessary infrastructural elements such as X-Road, e-Identity and digital signature. Theoretically, a system such as Estonia’s X-Road data exchange layer would allow the linking of databases of different countries. The hope of the Estonian planners is that, by 2020, all the data systems of EU governments would be exchanging data on some platform, even if it’s not the X-Road per se. Therefore, Estonia is trying to push the message through in Brussels, back necessary EU legislation and show leadership, as it did for example with the recent signing of a treaty on digital signatures with Finland.

One of Estonia’s specific goals is to have 20 percent of the active population of the European Union using digital signature by 2020 to expedite business operations and personal affairs. Introducing digital signature technology in the European Union will be a priority of the Estonian ICT sector and possibility a theme of Estonia’s presidency of the European Union in 2018. Estonia also plans to launch e-Residency, a kind of virtual residency that is believed to become a game changing revolution as it gives people state recognized secure digital identity. Herein e-Residency allows anyone in any country to enjoy the benefits of Estonia’s e-services, awarded best in the EU. Looking further into the future, and beyond the confines of Europe, Estonia hopes to advance digital society around the world, continuing to share its experience and the experience of others by setting up a global information society think tank. With the help of other governments, NGOs and private companies, the think tank’s goal would be to build a knowledge camp and demonstrate that the transition to a digital society doesn’t have to be costly, improves life and creates opportunities for growth.

COMPANIES THAT COULD CHANGE THE WORLD In ICT, action gravitates toward geographic clusters – Silicon Valley is the perfect example – where a critical mass of talent, ideas, projects and companies feed one another and grow. Both the public and the private sectors depend on the existence of an “ecosystem” or an environment where such an exchange can take place. Build an environment where things are buzzing and you can be sure that interesting things will happen. With eyes firmly fixed on the future, the ICT business community and the government alike are actively involved in making sure that Estonia’s ecosystem continues to be attractive for would-be investors and provide fertile ground for new companies to take root. FROM GARAGE TO BOARD ROOM By some estimates, Tallinn has more startups per capital than anywhere else in Europe. It is hard to say whether this is because the city has an established tech community or because of the mystique created by the barrage of Estonian success stories that have hit the headlines in recent years.


e-Estonia The Future Is Now

One certainty is that the boom is tied to the support given by groups like Garage48, a foundation that runs a startup hub in central Tallinn. The foundation provides working and meeting space for those who dream of turning their bright ideas into thriving businesses, just as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak famously started Apple in a garage in California in the 1970s. Garage48 also runs weekend workshops where groups have 48 hours to take a concept from initial pitch to completed product - a valuable experience for any wouldbe entrepreneur. There is no doubt that the startup scene in Estonia will continue to grow, though how big it will get by 2020 is anyone’s guess. But it’s not just the size of the scene that’s changing, it’s the nature as well. As Estonian private sector ICT becomes better known internationally, more angel investors are likely to take notice and become involved. And the home-grown companies that have become successful have now begun to reinvest in local startups as well – a phenomenon that could potentially mushroom. Experts predict that as private companies increasingly take a leadership role in fostering business, government-funded


projects such as accelerators will fade into the background and the state will instead focus on infrastructural areas. Businesses and entrepreneurs have also been lending a hand in creating the next wave of engineers, working with universities to create fresh curricula and creating scholarships, while NGOs like Tech Sisters encourage more teenage girls to get interested in tech – potentially a key step if Estonia hopes to double its number of ICT workers by 2020.

THE NEXT SKYPE There’s no doubt that the success story that thrust Estonian ICT into the international spotlight was Skype, the product that brought VoIP communication to the masses. It’s a story that continues to resonate in the local ecosystem and it’s a brand that has almost become synonymous with the country itself. But by 2020, that role could be taken over by another company, or by several companies, if the number of wellestablished ICT companies continues to multiply. There are already several good candidates. TransferWise, the peer-to-peer money transfer system, is rapidly becoming a household name. Mobile payment systems provider Fortumo may not be far behind. Not to mention GrabCAD, the online community for mechanical engineers that helps them build great products faster. GrabCAD was recently bought by The world’s largest 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys with the great sum that will fertilise Estonian start-up landscape.

LED lighting and Marinexplore, a company that provides a user-friendly way to upload marine data. The list goes on. As the number of Estonian startups that become established, international companies grows, perhaps to three times its current number by 2020, the nation’s ICT environment will become unrecognizable from what it is today. Likewise, as global tech trends develop to incorporate innovations such as contact-less payment solutions, robotics and integrated household devices, Estonian companies will be forced to change their focus to stay at the front of the latest wave.

Other up-and-coming stars are Digital Sputnik, which is revolutionizing the film industry with cooler, more efficient


e-Estonia The Future Is Now




launch of e-Tax Board


launch of m-Parking




ID Card


launch of ID bus ticket


i-Voting introduced


launch of Mobile-ID


launch of e-Police system


launch of e-Health system


launch of e-Prescription


launch of Smart Grid


launch of Country-wide EV quick charging network


launch of e-Residency

WHAT CAN WE DO FOR YOU? If you are holding an idea in your hands, an idea which almost sounds too extravagant or unthinkable to be put into practice, then the Estonian ICT companies have the exact knowledge on how to employ it.




READ MORE ABOUT ESTONIA Published by Enterprise Estonia. Enterprise Estonia promotes business and regional policy in Estonia and is one of the largest institutions within the national support system for entrepreneurship, providing financial assistance, counselling, cooperation opportunities and training for entrepreneurs, research institutions, the public and non-profit sectors.

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E-Estonia - The Future Is Now  

E-Estonia - The Future Is Now