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Estonia’s Digital Strategy

Estonia’s Digital Strategy positions Estonia as a leading “e-country”.

Recognised by the UN as a world leader in e-Government, the Republic of Estonia describes itself an e-country, where the majority of people use e-banking, access on-line services, pay taxes, pay parking with a mobile phone and even vote on-line.

Accessing government services in Estonia is almost second nature, with wireless internet available almost everywhere in the country, and is largely freely available. Since launching the first free public WiFi in Estonia’s medieval capital Tallin in 2005, WiFi is now freely available across most of the country, including forests and beaches.

Released in 2013, Estonia’s Digital Strategy has a strong focus on fostering strong e-government,  which it aims to develop using digital technologies such digital IDs, digital signatures, digital seals and the digitisation of government information and services.

Estonia has the worlds most advanced electronic national ID card system, first launched 2002. By 2012, 90% of Estonia’s population had an electronic ID card. Estonia’s electronic ID card is an national identity document that can also be used to access all of Estonia’s e-services, including e-elections and e-perscriptions, but can also be used as a pre-paid public transport ticket and to access internet banking.

As part of its Digital Strategy, Estonia aims to start offering its digital identification services to citizens of the European Union. By 2020, Estonia aims to have issued 5000 eIDs issued to non-residents, and to be providing digital signatures to 20% of digitally active European Union residents.

“The aspiration for Estonia is to become as re-known for its e-services as Switzerland is in the field of banking”, the strategy states.

Internet is accessible nearly everywhere and by everyone in Estonia, with nearly 95% fixed broadband coverage (EU Digital Agenda Scoreboard) and over 80% of Estonian residents using the internet (Statistics Estonia) in 2013.

Whilst Estonia has above average internet penetration for the European Union, there are still around 300,000 people in Estonia that don’t use the internet, according to the strategy.  Non-internet users are “predominantly older people or people with lower income and educational levels, who lack the necessary knowledge and skills”.

The strategy recognises the challenge this poses “as the majority of future jobs and services (including those in the fields of social welfare and health care the users of which are mainly the elderly) will be ICT-based, being not able to use the internet may jeopardise these people’s access to services, participation in society and opportunities to find or maintain a job”.

The Estonia’s Digital Strategy aims that by 2020:

  • 65% of people will use a secure electronic identity (ID card, mobile ID, digital ID)
  • Estonia will be ranked in the top five countries for internet freedom
  • 90% of official government communication will be paperless
  • 100% of invoices between public and private sector will be machine-processable e-invoices
  • Fixed internet will be available to all Estonian households
  • 60% of the population will have 100 Mbit/s or faster internet

The Digital Strategy focuses on four key areas:

  1. ICT infrastructure for economic growth, smarter governance and the well-being of individuals
  2. Better ICT skills for more jobs with higher added value, increased international competitiveness and higher quality of life
  3. Smarter governance and public administration
  4. Greater awareness of e-Estonia in the world

Initiatives identified in the strategy include:

  • Promoting the use of digital signatures and electronic authentication
  • Encouraging joint use and reuse of data and technologies
  • Making reusable software available through repositories.
  • Making public sector information available in  machine-readable formats
  • Using open standards and open specifications
  • Promoting joint use of ICT infrastructure by the public sector
  • Digitising Estonia’s cultural heritage
  • Connecting Estonian information systems to pan-European service infrastructure platforms
  • Enhancing secure public WiFi networks
  • Further deveoping eID and digital trust services such as digital signatures and digital seals
  • Increasing the public sector’s capacity to apply data analytics

The strategy identifies a number of challenges in realising its vision:

  • The government has an abundance of data however its not always used to make better policy decisions or to provide better services
  • The public sector has limited capability to take full advantage of the potential of ICT
  • Many e-services are inconvenient to use and some organisations still prefer the “paper world”
  • Technology is sometimes adopted without redesigning the processes and services
  • People can only benefit from infrastructure and services if they have skills and motivation to use them
  • A small but significant digital divide remains between internet users and non-users
  • There is a need to continuously improve skills and knowledge to keep pace technology, such as protecting personal data
  • Greater emphasis needs to be put on ICT competencies of the future such as data mining,  data analysis and cybersecurity

Fast facts (2013 figures)

  • Estonia ranked second in the world for internet freedom, after ranking first in 2010-2013, (Freedom House)
  • The internet was used by 80% of Estonians aged between 16 and 74 years (Statistics Estonia)
  • Nearly 100% of young Estonians were using the internet and 63% of people aged 55 to 64 years (Statistics Estonia)
  • 95% of Estonian residents filed their tax returns through the internet (Statistics Estonia)
  • 90% of the working age population used internet banking (Statistics Estonia)
  • Over 98% of businesses submitted their annual accounts electronically
  • Estonia’s e-Annual Report was  recognised by the UN as the ‘Best of the Best’ e-Government application over the past 10 years (United Nations World Summit 2013, Paris)
  • Free public WiFi is available across Estonia including beaches and forests

About Estonia

  • Estonia is located in the Baltic region of Northern Europe, bordering Russia and Lativia
  • Estonia is one of Europe’s newest democracies, gaining independence in 1991
  • Estonia is larger in size than Denmark or Holland, but has a population of only 1.3 million
  • The capital Tallin was the 2011 European Capital of Culture
  • Estonia has 15 counties, 33 towns and 194 rural municipalities

Read Estonia’s Digital Strategy
Learn about e-Estonia
Learn about Estonia’s Electronic ID

References
Information Technology in Households 2013 Survey, Statistics Estonia
Digital Agenda Scoreboard, European Union
Visit Estonia
E-Estonia