Estonia is a small and IT-savvy country, which makes it easy to test and implement new technology. Solutions and services of e-governance that have proved to be successful are now being exported to other countries – not for money, but for growing influence.
Finland, for example, is currently implementing an Estonian-built and state-run data exchange platform and the state of Utah in the USA is using Estonian e-voting technology for the presidential caucus.
Ted Cruz Won Republican Presidential Caucus Using Estonian E-voting Technology
Estonia introduced nation-wide internet voting in 2005 and has since used it in all local and parliamentary elections, including European Parliamentary elections. On 22 March 2016, the US Republican presidential caucus in Utah was held using the made-in-Estonia e-voting system for the first time.
E-voting via computer or smartphone has been used in Estonia since 2005. During the 2015 Estonian parliamentary elections, 30.5% of all votes were submitted via e-channels.
Estonians are able to use their ID cards for authentication, something that is not possible in the USA due to the absence of a national identity card, therefore a different method had to be used with voters required to pre-register in order to be eligible to vote online.
The system, developed as a joint project by Cybernetica and Smartmatic, has also been used in Chile, where eligible voters in the Maipu region were engaged in budgetary decision-making.
Cybernetica has also been deploying the Unified Exchange Platform, the core technology for Estonia’s X-road, in several countries around the world, including Haiti and Namibia. Currently, Cybernetica exports its IT-services to 35 countries.
Finland to Use Estonian Data Exchange Platform
Estonia has developed the X-road data exchange platform, which brings together almost all of the main services provided by public and private sectors and makes it possible for the users to carry out their necessary activities electronically. Since last year, Estonia’s neighbouring country Finland has been using the same solution and there are future plans to join the data systems of the two countries.
According to the Estonian Information System Authority X-road Area Manager, Heiko Vainsalu, the technical solution for X-road, developed in Estonia, includes 1,700 services and 1,200 organisations. In March 2016, a total of 60 million queries were made via the X-road platform. According to estimates, X-road saved 1,966 years of Estonians’ working time last year alone.
Vainsalu sees X-road as a skeleton, which allows a person to perform almost all operations electronically, while at the same time remaining completely invisible. The goal of X-road is to make the day-to-day functioning of the state as automatic and seamless as possible. At the same time the whole system is simple and transparent. No such solution exists anywhere in the world.
‘‘Estonians consider it entirely natural that they do not need to run between various organisations in order to hand in documents. For example, if someone wishes to be admitted to a school all applications can be made and all documents submitted electronically,” Vainsalu explains.
Given the economic integration of the neighbours, the Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas and his Finnish counterpart Juha Sipilä, agreed that Finland will start developing a similar solution and that data exchange and e-services will be launched between the two countries.
As a result, Estonians are able to establish a company in Finland simply by using their ID card and in the future, Finns will be able to do the same in Estonia.
Automatic data exchange between the two countries will make it so much easier for people to go about their business while at the same time saving a considerable amount of public money on account of not having to run bureaucratic systems.
Estonians are offering the Finns their existing technological solution combined with 15 years of experience in creating an electronic platform for the state systems. Cooperation with Finland will also accelerate the development of the X-road system and help share the costs.
Estonia Shares Secure Technology Free of Charge
According to Heiko Vainsalu, distributing the technology developed in Estonia globally will serve two purposes:
“The main goal is to export a model of a secure e-state to the rest of the world. Essentially, we are involved in guerrilla-marketing our secure e-state. The second objective is to support exports by the local IT-firms.”
Sweden and other countries around the Baltic Sea have also expressed an interest in the X-road solution. Heiko Vainsalu lists, as the target group, primarily the EU Member States but more widely also the digitally developed G7 and Digital 5 states.
Today, many Estonian tech companies are developing e-solutions for countries all over the world, implementing similar solutions to the ones Estonians have been enjoying for many years already. For example, the state web portal, together with a 3-minute online business registration solution, was developed for Oman by the Estonian company Nortal.
Blockchain technology developed by the Estonian company Guardtime is being used in both Europe as well as in the USA. We can see Estonian experience being used in GIS solutions built for the USA by the Estonian company Datel as well as mobile parking solutions by Now!Innovations being implemented in the USA, Russia and Belgium.
These are just a few examples of how Estonian-based e-solutions are quickly spreading all over the world.
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