Estonia has been a pioneer in converting public services into flexible e-solutions for its citizens and e-residents. The implementation of the Government Cloud solution provides an excellent foundation for public e-services and solutions, which makes Estonia the most digital country in the world. With the Government Cloud solution Estonia is taking the next step in its digital evolution to expand its ICT society.
The Estonian Government Cloud will lead to the modernization and renewal of existing information systems, to embrace the opportunities offered by cloud technology and allow more agility in provision of e-services by the Estonian government agencies and critical service providers to residents and e-residents.
The solution will help to integrate the existing siloed IT infrastructure of the Estonian public sector into shared pool of resources. The Estonian public institutions will gradually transit from existing legacy systems to a new Government Cloud solution, which has been developed in accordance with the national IT Security Standard (ISKE), to ensure the compliance with safety and quality requirements. For example sensitive personal data is stored and handled with confidentiality, and integrity.
To accommodate physical security requirements, the Estonian Government Cloud will be deployed in two locations, having one location outside of the capital. This will allow to manage data and information systems in a distributed manner. To support the Estonian “digital” independence and uninterrupted operation of public IT services in state of emergency there is a long-term plan to establish e-embassies outside Estonia in friendly foreign countries.
The Estonian Government Cloud is developed in collaboration between the Estonian Government, represented by the State Infocommunication Foundation (RIKS), and a consortium of private sector companies including Cybernetica, Dell EMC, Ericsson, OpenNode and Telia.
All consortium partners are responsible for specific contribution:
State Infocommunication Foundation (RIKS) – data centres and management of customer relations;
Cybernetica – ISKE certification process;
Dell EMC – hardware;
Ericsson – project management, hardware and software;
OpenNode – technical leadership and cloud orchestrator (self-service portal and service store);
Telia – operations, cloud related products and services.
Data Embassy is an extension in the cloud of the Estonian government, which means the state owns server resources outside its territorial boundaries. This is an innovative concept for handling state information, since states usually store their information within their physical boundaries. Data Embassy resources are under Estonian state control, secured against cyberattacks or crisis situations with KSI blockchain technology, and are capable not only providing data backups, but also operating the most critical services.
When we say “data embassy”, we mean a data centre. It is located in Luxembourg under a Tier 4 level of security – the highest level for data facilities. It is not an embassy in the traditional diplomatic sense and while the founding agreement does take into account the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, it is something completely new under international law. It is fully under the control of Estonia, but has the same rights as physical embassies such as immunity.
Luxembourg is the first data embassy location because of the high quality technical capacity, but also because of their openness to work with this new concept. In this collaboration, Luxembourg and Estonia are pathfinders in creating a unique and innovative way to ensure digital continuity in the world.
Data Embassy kick-off took place in 2015 and the finalised agreement between Estonia and Luxembourg was signed in 2017. The development of the Estonian Government Cloud is a collaboration between the Estonian Government and private sector companies, including Cybernetica, Dell EMC, Ericsson, OpenNode and Telia.
i-Voting is a unique solution that simply and conveniently helps to engage people in the governance process. In 2005, Estonia became the first country in the world to hold nation-wide elections using this method, and in 2007, it made headlines as the first country to use i-Voting in parliamentary elections.
Internet voting, or i-Voting, is a system that allows voters to cast their ballots from any internet-connected computer anywhere in the world. Completely unrelated to the electronic voting systems used elsewhere, which involve costly and problematic machinery, the Estonian solution is simple, elegant and secure.
During a designated pre-voting period, the voter logs onto the system using an ID-card or Mobile-ID, and casts a ballot. The voter’s identity is removed from the ballot before it reaches the National Electoral Commission for counting, thereby ensuring anonymity.
With any method of remote voting, including traditional postal ballots, the possibility of votes being forced or bought is a concern. Estonia’s solution was to allow voters to log on and vote as many times as they want during the pre-voting period. Since each vote cancels the last, a voter always has the option of changing his or her vote later.
In the case of i-Voting, the cumulative time saved in the last Estonian elections was 11,000 working days.
The Information System for Government Sessions, better known as e-Cabinet, is a powerful tool that the Estonian government uses to streamline its decision-making process. At its core, the system is a multi-user database and scheduler that keeps relevant information organized and updated in real time, giving ministers a clear overview of each item under discussion.
Well before the weekly cabinet session begins, the ministers access the system to review each agenda item and determine their position. They then click a box stating whether they have any objections or would like to speak on the topic. That way the ministers’ positions are known beforehand. Decisions that have no objections are adopted without debate, saving considerable time.
Once Estonia adopted its paperless e-Cabinet system, the average length of the weekly cabinet meetings was cut from 4 or 5 hours to between 30 and 90 minutes. The government has also eliminated the need to print and deliver thousands of pages of documents each week – a significant benefit for the environment and the tax payer.
Because e-Cabinet uses web-based software and audio-visual equipment, ministers can take part remotely, and have often done so. Decisions made at the meetings can be e-mailed to interested parties or posted on a website even while the meeting is still going on.
Read more about how the Estonian e-Cabinet works here.
Developers of e-Governance
These e-Governance e-solutions are provided by the following Estonian companies:
- Cybernetica i-Voting, TIVI Visit website
- Nortal Digital Business Register Visit website
- Ericsson Government Cloud Visit website
- OpenNode Government Cloud Visit website
- Telia Government Cloud Visit website
- State Infocommunication Foundation Government Cloud Visit website
- Dell EMC Government Cloud Visit website
Find out more about the services and know-how of the Estonian IT sector