Despite the fact that Estonians have been doing everything online for many years already, companies and other institutions still had to reorganise their everyday lives in response to Covid-19. Meetings were rescheduled for online platforms and working from home became a new reality for many. So it’s clear that the private sector was able to adjust rather quickly to the new normal – but what about those digital solutions provided by the government? To get a better understanding, let’s take a look at the numbers.
Do people log in more often to use online services?
The best place to start, I’d argue, is how the usage of the government-issued electronic identity has changed over time. This will give us a good indication because the electronic ID is used to access many other services, both in the public and private sector. Thankfully, the Estonian Information System Authority made a lovely graph (see below) showing the developments over the last couple of months. In February, usage levels were still comparable to previous months. In mid-March, the Estonian government declared an emergency situation in response to the pandemic. And in April we can see the transformation in full swing.
Do people sign more stuff online?
One of the most popular services in Estonia is the digital signature. For this, we use a programme called DigiDoc4 and you can use any of the electronic identity carriers available to people in Estonia (e-ID card, Mobile-ID, Smart-ID). As you can see, the lion’s share of digital signatures is still done with the electronic ID card (72% of all signatures in April) – but between February and April, usage numbers also quadrupled and tripled for Smart-ID and Mobile-ID respectively. If that’s not great news, I don’t know what is!
Do entities exchange more data online?
But let’s look at the bigger picture! As you know, government authorities and also many private sector entities use the X-Road for secure data exchange – so it’s fair to ask, have there been any changes in X-Road usage over the last few months? Let’s take a look!
Actually, it is possible to analyse the amount of X-Road activities week by week. For a conclusive overview, we are taking the period from Week 9 (February 27) to Week 17 (ending April 26) of 2020. The emergency situation was declared on March 12th, i.e. in week 11.
During this period, the Health and Welfare Information Systems Center, the Police and Border Guard Board and the Chamber of Bailiffs and Bankruptcy Trustees made the most enquiries through the X-Road. Most datasets were obtained from the information systems of the Health Insurance Fund, the Tax and Customs Board, and the Centre of Registers and Information Systems. Given the situation of the crisis, this makes perfect sense.
While the number of enquiries from the public sector remained relatively stable during this period, the number of enquiries from the private sector companies increased by almost 50% from week 11-14 (immediately after the declaration of the emergency situation) compared to week 9. Following that distinct growth period, the number of queries slowly plateaued.
In absolute terms, the number of enquiries made through the information system of the Police and Border Guard Board, the Information System of Enforcement and Bankruptcy proceedings of the Chamber of Bailiffs and Bankruptcy Trustees and Ridango AS (ticketing system for public transport networks) increased the most during this emergency period. Among those servers that saw the number of enquiries drop significantly were the border control database, the customs declaration information system and the reservation system of the Police and Border Guard Board. Also, the number of enquiries in health care information systems (e.g. pharmacy information system, health care provider information system, health insurance fund, etc.) increased between week 11-14 and stabilised thereafter.
Do people use online services more often?
Finally, I also had a look at the state portal called eesti.ee which acts as a platform that provides lots of useful information and directs users to the right e-service. Week 10-13 could be termed as the calm before the storm with just slightly increased usage rates, but week 14 saw the number of queries effectively double. Following that busy week, the number of queries dropped below late-February levels.
What does all of this mean?
In short, we see an interesting dichotomy in the usage rates of various e-governance aspects. Those solutions that are used primarily by institutions, be they public or private, saw distinctly higher or lower usage rates as a result of their role in the pandemic response (such as health databases vs border guard servers). Meanwhile, those services targeted at the public in particular (such as the Estonian state portal) saw short bursts of heightened activity before returning to pre-crisis levels.
The main takeaway from all of this is that our digital infrastructure has handled the added burden, both long-term growth and short, intensive bursts, with grace.
The X-Road creates a resilient and secure data exchange platform for various stakeholders, and Estonians have effortlessly moved their operations even more online than they already had prior to the crisis. This flexibility in times of crisis is something that we should all take note of – and I am sure that it will come in handy again.
Today, e-governance and e-services have become a necessity in every country. e-Estonia Briefing Centre – the gateway to Estonian expertise in e-governance, invites you to connect with the Estonian IT companies directly responsible for the successful functioning of the e-state even during a pandemic. Get in touch with us to set up your custom virtual programme with the best partners you could get: firstname.lastname@example.org