Estonia showcases the advantages of a digital society

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Siim Sikkut, Government CIO of Estonia, shares how citizens as well as businesses can benefit from a digital government, at the GCIO Forum 2017.

There are many benefits of a digital government and society, as exemplified by Estonia.

Powered by X-Road — the data exchange layer for information systems — and electronic ID, which is a digital signature for citizens, most government and public services in Estonia are now digital.

For instance, entrepreneurs can now “register their new business online in just a few hours” through the e-Business Register, Siim Sikkut, Government CIO of Estonia, told delegates at GCIO Forum 2017. They can also use the digital service to change data in the business register and file annual reports at any time and from anywhere.

Given the ease of starting and operating a business in the country, Estonia has experienced a healthy growth of startups, said Sikkut. According to Funderbearm Start up Investment Report in 2017, Estonia has 31 startups per 100,000 inhabitants, which is six times higher than the European average.

Besides that, Estonia has digitised its citizens’ health records to improve the efficiency of its healthcare industry.

Citizens requiring long-term medication can also get their doctors to provide a digital prescription slip, and present it to the pharmacy when they need to get their medicine. This has helped reduce queues at hospitals by a third, said Sikkut.

He added that his country will build on the e-health records and digital prescription efforts to offer personalised, timely health services to citizens in future.

In a bid to extend the advantages of a digital society to the world, Estonia is offering a transnational digital identity programme called e-Residency. Built on the fact that people are increasingly becoming global citizens and the world is becoming borderless, e-Residency allows anyone in the world to run a trusted location-independent EU business online and use public e-services through their digital identity.

So far, more than 22,000 from over 140 countries globally have applied for e-Residency, and more than 3,200 companies are owned by e-residents, said Sikkut.

Sikkut concluded his presentation by sharing that his government is working towards reducing administrative burden on businesses and bureaucracy within the public sector.

“For instance, once companies are up and running and they agree to connect their APIs to the government, the government will no longer ask them for certain information such as taxes as the information is readily available. This automates reporting, which means that small companies may not longer need accountants,” he said.

He added: “We also want to bring this convenience to citizens for their life events such as marriage or birth of a child. So if a child is born in the hospital, his/her parents should not need to manually register for family benefits as the government would have already known [about the child’s existence.]”

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