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What’s next, Estonia?

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Estonia anticipates becoming a 100% digitalised society by the end of 2024. While this marks a significant milestone for our digital state, it prompts the crucial question of what comes next. In the era of rapidly advancing technology, digitally empowered nations must not lag behind but instead, keep pace with the accelerating developments.

Digital is a mindset in Estonia, a way of living – not to be hooked online 24/7 but by default mean for running your errands efficiently and with high quality. The World Bank, OCDE, and others are measuring different variables of digital societies and discussing where e-states are moving towards.

Mature digital societies, Estonia among the front-runners, are about to elevate the standards of digitalisation as we know them today. We are upping the game as we move into the post-digital era. What is post-digital, what can we expect from it, and why are we doing this?

Future generations demand a completely different level of engagement

People’s behaviours and habits have constantly evolved, but this societal change has not come from a (democratic) government imposing new behaviour models on us. Rather, change happens due to individual intrinsic motivation to do things differently because they see personal gain and are willing to invest in this change.

How our future generations will perceive the government’s services and their expectations are strongly influenced by the service models they are already receiving from the private sector. Therefore, this demand is similarly projected onto the public sector, as they see a personal gain and a more efficient and preferred way of interaction.

That is what post-digital will offer – a new engagement model for the demand that will exist in the future via a government-as-a-platform model. Proactive, personalised, transparent, and trustworthy services whenever they become relevant to your life, with less intervention (if desired so) and bigger control over what happens to you. The traditional e-governance requires a person’s contribution, or in less advanced models, leaves the person only as a passive consumer at the end of the service chain. The life-events-based service model enables bigger automatisation, partly backed by artificial intelligence, to help humans see patterns and cross-dependencies. With AI, but also thanks to deliberate customer (citizen) satisfaction surveys, continuous renewal of services is achieved, making service delivery agile and adjustable to the current needs of society. Open data and transparency are crucial to maintain high trust in society.

Post-digital is all about real-time data exchange, various levels for personalisation and adjustment for your needs – shifting the focus from the Government’s processes to a person’s needs. Personal Government offers a new paradigm to service delivery in the public sector that is based on core characteristics:

  • Human-centric – every Government official should be a regular walk-in client of their own services to keep the focus on what the citizen should experience and then offer exactly that. A human-centric service minimises the time spent away from anyone’s core activities.
  • Accessible – many argue that e-services create a digital divide for vulnerable groups; the truth is that traditional services have always oppressed marginalised groups and personal government services address exactly that issue by making services available to all – people unable to utilise regular digital channels, unable to use a service due to language barrier, disability or otherwise. This will increase equity across all social groups.
  • Proactive – by anticipating the need or running invisible processes for the user, governments no longer wait for the user to initiate the consumption of the service but proactively turn them into effect when the user has expressed consent.
  • Trustworthy – Estonia’s experience in creating a trust for digital services has taught us to adjust to different individual beliefs and emphasise the need for understandable and straightforward services where data privacy and data usage are explained. Moreover, it is enforced that personal data is used only in case for providing a better service.
  • Empowering – in exchange for trust, the service offers an added value that traditional one-dimensional services have been unable to. The user is viewed as an active creator, not a mere passive receiver of a static service, allowing higher effectivity (instant real-time service provision), aversion of risk behaviour (predictive health data allowing you to prevent future illness thanks to early discovery), or adding societal value (personal offerings for job opportunities for people in seeking new employment).

The future we might be hesitant about today, but soon, we will not picture our life without it

Remember when ridesharing emerged? People said it was madness as a decent taxi service already existed; who would use Uber or Bolt? Today, the residents of 500 cities across the globe do.

Remember when online banking just got introduced, people said no one in their right mind will use “digital money” as it is tracked, and banks will steal it. Try finding a person today with no bank account.

Remember when cars with motors were invented? People said horses would forever transport humanity. How often do you see a horse today in traffic?

The point is that times change and need to evolve, and innovations will always be daunting, scary, and off-putting to us until we adopt them due to visible benefits and gained trust. The tricky part about trust is that it takes an instant to break and a lifetime to build. However, once a high level of trust is reached and felt through personal experience, it becomes resilient to crisis and turmoil in society.

The post-digital era with the Personal Government concept is so new it’s hard to grasp and might be distant because we have not yet gained personal trust through experience. So, to finish, allow me to walk you through some of the first personal service use cases already in work in Estonia to help paint a better understanding of what is ahead.

Mari and Priit are getting married

Mari and Priit have decided to marry. Although a common introverted Estonian, Priit managed to arrange the most wonderful proposal in a bird-watching tower outside the city, accompanied by a pop-up picnic. Mari is over the moon and cannot wait to tie the knot. As the sun sets over the stunted pines, Mari logs into her citizen portal and selects a marriage life-event. The service view generates even the loveliest wedding invites featuring Mari’s new surname! As the waiting list for the civil ceremony is long, they get a calendar invite from the Vital Statistics Department one month ahead. All the administrators set aside, Mari can’t wait to drive back to the city and get on with the dress shopping!

What you saw:

  • Mari and Priit want to get married

What you didn’t see:

  • Population Register for both ID codes – retrieved
  • Automated check to detect relative status – not related
  • Automated check to detect current civic status – both single
  • Expressing the will – both agreed
  • Surname change if will expressed
  • Property status chosen
  • Ordering new documents – Mari’s new surname
  • State tax paid
  • Date and time for civic registration chosen

Anna and Siim get a child

Anna is just waking up after exhausting labour. Siim is greeting her with the widest grin she has ever seen on his face. Siim is holding their newborn, Kristjan, so deep in his sleep that he doesn’t even frown for a second when Anna and Siim gush over his small toes and round nose. A notification on her phone gets Anna curious. She reads, “Congratulations, Anna, on your new child! Please confirm if this is your current bank account for family benefits.” Anna clicks “confirm” and shares the registration account with Siim. “Kristjan, the son of Anna and Siim,” they type, beaming with pride. After confirmation that their form has reached the local municipality, Anna and Siim let themselves be carried away by the overwhelming wave of love and joy of becoming fresh parents.

What you saw:

  • Anna and Siim had a baby boy

What you didn’t see:

  • The hospital issued an ID code
  • Kristjan’s birth certificate is generated
  • Anna’s and Kristjan’s ID codes were tied – she received a notification
  • Anna was offered a universal family benefit from the State
  • Paternal attribution- Siim was recognised as a father of Kristjan
  • Notification to a local municipality for residency registration
  • Based on residency registration, Kristjan was submitted to a kindergarten waiting list

Simple people. Simple lives. Simple actions. Using a Government service does not have to be complicated.

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You will find us on a ground floor of Valukoja 8, central entrance behind the statue of Mr Ernst Julius Öpik. Photo of the central entrance.

Valukoja 8
11415 Tallinn, Estonia