Beyond life and livestock: exploring Estonia’s quirky digital services

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What cyberspace and physical space have in common is that they both have less travelled parts. Here we are venturing into some of the grey areas of Estonian cyberspace.


Not only for the alive…


A common joke in international conferences about Estonia is that they are so digitally advanced that they have even digitalised death. The only correction – this is not a joke. Since 2019, Estonians have had the privilege of using e-death, an interoperability service that exchanges data about the deceased between healthcare providers and ministries. This morbid service is actually highly beneficial because otherwise, the relatives may face several tedious bureaucratic tasks concerning death certificates, pensions, bills etc.


After the person is digitally dead, their adventures in cyberspace do not stop there. Many Estonia municipalities use the digital graveyard software Grave, developed by SpinTek. Again, looking beyond its frightening façade, this software systematizes graveyard registries, keeps track of their maintenance, and even allows for the visitor of the graveyard to locate the desired spot more easily. Each municipal digital burial ground is integrated with the population register and interlinked with each other. This allows relatives of the deceased to request maintenance and memorial services of a particular grave even if the graveyard is far away in the physical realm. The software is in use by municipalities of several countries over the world.


Interestingly though, the software service Coffin keeps track of the medically insured persons in Estonia. Why this health-related service has such an un-intuitive name, only the programmers know.


The naming game


This brings us to the ungrateful task of naming digital services. While the services have lengthy and often highly bureaucratic names, they are routinely given shorter acronyms. Sometimes, as the example of the Coffin above, the names create amusing allusions.


For example, a part of the state digital signature software is called Pig (SiGa in Estonian), while another part is called Quickly (SiVa in Estonian), and the central authentication service is called a Fence (Tara in Estonian). Or, from another walk of life, the system that tracks government support to municipalities for organising sporting activities for children is called a Pat (Pai in Estonian). Clearly, the programmers who, after a long day, need to write a title for their folder go for the shorthand and only later think of the consequences.


And now for something completely different


When it comes to the favourite digital services and their names in Estonia, we are looking towards the realm of agriculture. Digitalisation of agriculture has prompted the creation of two software services that, being probably quite obscure for the common person, are valued and highly used by farmers. We are talking about the pig farming database Piggy (Possu) and the cattle breeding database Moo-moo (Vissike). Nothing to laugh about here! These serious services keep track of the productivity, lineage, and health of these animals in Estonian farms. Hopefully, they offer a similar moment of delight to the farmers as they turn on their computers to our readers.


Enjoy your holidays, and we will return with more serious topics promptly!


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11415 Tallinn, Estonia