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e-Estonia sparks joy!

The wise philosopher Marie Kondo discussed in her seminal philosophical treatise “Spark Joy” how we should let go of the things that do not bring us joy in life. And yes, I know that she primarily refers to decluttering the attic or the question whether that second copy of your secondary school’s yearbook (just in case the first copy spontaneously combusts!) is truly necessary. Outside of our own household, there are three things we are likely to have on our bodies at all times: the keys to get back into the house, our phone, and our wallet. Sadly, this article will not help you declutter the Downloads folder on your phone; throwing away some of your keys is not really an option… so let’s look at your wallet!

In most wallets we will find the following: some type of ID card, a driver’s licence, most likely a healthcare card, and – depending on your lifestyle – anywhere between three and two million loyalty and membership cards, be it for the gym, the supermarket or your favourite bookstore. Living in Estonia I personally only really use three cards: my ID card, my bank card, and my public transport card.

Public transport is free in Tallinn for all registered residents of Tallinn which makes life very easy and saves you an awful lot of money. My bank card is only in my wallet as a back-up in case I can’t pay with my phone via NFC. Now, about the ID card: everyone who lives here for more than three months must register with the police to get one – and people do because of all the benefits that it brings. Sure, being able to access 99% of all government services online and give digital signatures are exciting prospects. But on a daily basis, having your driver’s licence, healthcare card, supermarket loyalty card and everything else wrapped into one feels almost exactly as revolutionary as voting online for the first time.

When I go to my favourite pizza restaurant, I just give them my ID card, they are able to transfer all the data that is on the card itself such as my birthday and name (not things stored in other databases such as medical information or criminal history, of course!) into their system. That way, my ID card acts as the loyalty card for the pizza restaurant and any other business that signs up for this programme.

As you, dear reader, are surely aware by now, user-friendliness and accessibility are paramount to all digital solutions in Estonia and the same is true in this instance. Using the ID card as a loyalty card requires no digital skills whatsoever which makes it an attractive solution for people who want absolutely nothing to do with digitalisation in general.

On its journey towards the digital society, Estonia has seen time and time again that the population responds to digitalisation efforts when they solve relevant, tangible problems and concerns of the people. For many services, the state portal is the best and most easily accessible platform. For other services, the most useful platform can be the ID card you carry around every day anyway. Marie Kondo says that “tidying is the act of confronting yourself”; this is certainly true for e-Estonia – and it can be true for your wallet, too.

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