Estonia introduced a new ID card

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As of January this year, there are approximately 1.3 million ID cards being used in Estonia, which constitutes nearly 98% of the entire population of Estonia. Estonia is one of the few countries in the world where the ID card is a mandatory document.

Estonia also differs from other countries by the fact that the majority of (state) services are digitalised. Nearly 5,000 separate e-services enable people to run their daily errands without having to get off their computer at home. They can, for instance, enter into agreements, sign documents, submit various applications and so on, i.e. use digital channels and means to communicate with various state authorities and service providers. In 2017, 30% of voters cast their vote electronically during local elections, which indicates the widespread use of e-services as well as people’s trust towards the e-government. E-voting has been used in Estonia since 2005.

Over 800,000 people have used their ID card electronically at least once per year (entered the e-service or provided a signature), whereas approximately 300,000 ID card users use their card electronically on a weekly basis. In addition to the widespread use of the ID card, other authentication means are widely used as well, as 200,000 people have also adopted the Mobile-ID or Smart-ID (approx. 380,000).

Over 600 million digital signatures have been provided in Estonia since the first digital signature was given in 2002.

As of December last year, Estonia has adopted an ID card equipped with a new type of chip

The chip has two interfaces: regular contact interface and contactless interface (NFC interface). The latter enables services to authenticate the client by a wave of the ID card. The capacity of the new chip has increased, enabling to add new applications such as electronic tickets in public transportation or other electronically issued certifications.

The card has a new design and set of security elements. The existing black and white photograph is replaced by a colour photograph and various design elements inherent to Estonia, such as proverbs and nature photos, have been depicted on the card.

The new document is issued by the police to all people who have submitted an application as of 3 December 2018 for obtaining an ID card, a residency card, digital ID, express document or e-residency card. All documents issued prior to that date shall be valid until the date set out thereon, the last of the cards manufactured by the previous contractual partner Gemalto will expire in December 2023. The police issues around 10,000 ID cards each month.

New documents are manufactured for the Estonian state by French company IDEMIA, with whom the Police and Border Guard Board, as the issuer of documents, entered into an agreement in April 2017.

Development of e-ID depends on the readiness and cooperation of parties involved

Information System Authority (RIA) plays a prominent role in the shaping and development of the electronic identity (e-ID) in Estonia as well as elsewhere. For instance, RIA is responsible for ensuring that people can use the ID card electronically. The authority is also responsible for the development and management of ID card software (DigiDoc application), which can be used to process documents (open signed and encrypted documents as well as sign and encrypt documents). The software is currently used in approximately 600,000 computers.

In cooperation with the Police and Border Guard Board, RIA ensures the compliance of the security requirements regarding the electronic properties of the ID card with the best practices in the world as well as international standards. In terms of cross-border interoperability, Estonian e-ID means (chips and Mobile-ID) utilise certificates issued by a qualified trust service. This means that the certificates of Estonian electronic means of identification and the digital signatures provided via these means are automatically recognised in all public sector services in the EU. In addition, last autumn EU member states recognised the electronic identification security level of Estonian e-ID (ID card, residency card, e-residency card, digital ID and Mobile-ID) solutions as “High”. At this level, it is provided that all public sector services of EU member states shall accept the Estonian ID card upon logging into a service. Pursuant to the eIDAS regulation, countries have until the autumn of next year to implement necessary technical changes.

The success of Estonia in creating an e-society has inspired various countries and companies therein.

For instance, the international conference eID Forum 2018, which addressed issues regarding the future of electronic identity and IT-solutions and brought together over 300 private and public sector figures engaged in this area from across the world, was held in the Estonian capital Tallinn last September. This conference will take place in Estonia again this autumn.


Mr Andrus Kaarelson, Director of State Information System in the duties as Director General.


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