Estonians have a reputation of being present in every corner of the world to report back to their homeland. We, at the e-Estonia Briefing Centre are gladly doing it the other way around by reporting back to the world. In this edition Tobias Koch sheds light on what people have learned from Estonia.
Obviously it’s all e-governance and digital society with us and while we don’t believe that we’ve got everything figured out, we are convinced that there are some lessons that bring the world up to speed and maybe eventually even help leap-frog Estonia. It’s a particular pleasure to see our work either in Tallinn or abroad resonate in policymaking, strategies or projects around the world. I’d like to share two examples.
1. Single unique identifiers, UK
We definitely cannot take all the glory for that, but based on their own thorough research, including a private meeting with the Estonian ambassador and me as a representative of the Briefing Centre, the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee came to the conclusion, that the UK government needs to discuss the introduction of single unique identifiers. Arguably, the single unique identifier is one of the backbones of the Estonian digital society, as it’s one of the pillars of secure online authentication and a handy tool for citizens’ transparent insight into where their data is and how it has been used. The Committee writes in its recent Digital Government Report:
„The UK Government can learn from other international examples of best practice, such as Estonia, where citizens have a single unique identifier. (…) The Government should facilitate a national debate on single unique identifiers for citizens to use for accessing public services along with the right of the citizen to know exactly what the Government is doing with their data.“
2. X-Road and local government, Germany
This year German delegations have already outperformed our previous visiting champions: delegations from Japan. The interest from Germany has never been so strong and whether on local, state, federal government level or the private sector, people are eager to learn from Estonia. What we often lack however, is the take up afterwards. What do people do with what they’ve learned? Will they follow-up?
We got very excited, when we were invited to a follow-up workshop in Stuttgart last December after multiple delegation visits from local government representatives from Baden-Württemberg. The aim of the workshop was to look into the potential use cases of the X-Road in Southern Germany. In May, the local network* behind the workshop together with cities and municipalities home to two million people, applied for federal funding to pilot the X-Road for inter-municipality use. The plan: to integrate the flow of data between local governments and their registers, to standardise datasets and to embed this into the federal framework of the OZG-legislation** as well.
Applied right, we are certain that the X-Road is a great tool for secure data exchange, also in Germany. Yet it does not end there either, as we’re looking forward to following-up on briefings in the UK, Baden-Württemberg as well as elsewhere in the world.
* – the regional Association of Cities, the Ministry of Interior Affairs of the State Baden-Württemberg and digitalakademie@BW
** – OZG stands for the law of online access, which requires the digitisation of 575 public services by 2022