Interview: e-Estonia Doesn’t Think You Know How Awesome e-Citizenship Is Yet
e-Estonia could make your life easier. The project offers more than 3,000 services improving life for many people in Estonia right now. As a representative from the project tells Hacked, “It is not yet quite understood how many e-services Estonia has and how deeply it has integrated Estonians life making it more time-and cost-efficient.” Here are just some of the services:
- Electronic Health Record
These are just a few of the services e-Estonia features. The initiative just held an e-Residency hackathon from September 11-13th on the Estonian island of Vormsi.
e-Estonia seeks to become a digital nation with certain perks, like incorporating in less than an hour, easy tax declaration and digital contracts. Recently, e-Estonia and hackathon representatives wrote that the program is now developing e-Resident further with new services for e-Residents planned.
“The government of Estonia is welcoming more developers and service providers to enter the scene and integrate the secure and simple e-Residency open platform into services requiring digital authentication and document signing,” the statement read.
We hope that in the future the development of the e-Residency platform may be compared to the Apple App Store or Android Google Play.
We spoke with Katre Kasmel, head of communications for e-Estonia, about the project below.
What would a world with 10 million e-estonians in it look like?
Katre Kasmel: It would be a world with more freedom and less bureaucracy. Since the launch of e-Residency, we have received a vast amount of positive feedback. We have learned that people from around the world see e-Residency as an opportunity to fulfil their dreams, venture across the borders, and become free from bureaucracy. Our vision is to offer every world citizen, regardless of nationality or location, a hassle-free way to run a trusted company online.
Has there been much interested from US citizens compared with Finland, Russia and the Ukraine?
Katre Kasmel: As of September 23, 2015, the percentages of applications from different countries have been the following: Finland (21%), Russia (10%), United States of America (6%), Italy (6%), Ukraine (6%), Germany (4%), United Kingdom (4%), Latvia (3%), Netherlands (3%), India (3%) etc. Over 5500 people have applied in total, from 116 countries. The present situation is influenced by two reasons:
Firstly, quite recently (four months ago) we launched an online application portal (e-resident.gov.ee) and also, since May, it has been possible to pick up the e-Resident digital ID from one of the 38 Estonian foreign representations (before this two visits to Estonia were required). So until May more than half of the applicants were from neighbouring countries, after May the situation has changed a lot. Secondly, media coverage in different regions has had its influence.
What is your favorite part about Estonia?
Katre Kasmel: Estonia’s beautiful nature, diverse culture and Estonia’s openness to new and innovative ideas.
What is the awareness of e-Estonia in Estonia?
Katre Kasmel: The awareness is very high, e-Estonia is the everyday reality for Estonians. e-Estonia means voting in elections from the comfort of your own living room; filing your income tax return in just five minutes; signing a legally-binding contract over the Internet, from anywhere, via your mobile phone.
These are just a few of the services that Estonians take advantage of on a regular basis. Entrepreneurs can register businesses in a day (the World Record is in 18 minutes), check vital company, property and legal records online, and even integrate their own secure services with the ones offered by the state.
Interaction among government agencies, and between the government and citizens, has been completely transformed in e-Estonia, making bureaucracy a thing of the past. e-Cabinet is a powerful tool used by the Estonian government to streamline its decision making process (no paper in use), e-Law allows public access to every piece of draft law that has been submitted since February 2003, e-Police revolutionizes police communication and coordination, e-Prescription is a centralized paperless system for issuing and handling medical prescriptions, e-School allows students, teachers and parents to collaborate in learning process (grades visible to parents, information about homework etc), Electronic Health Record integrates data from healthcare providers into a national record for each patient (the patient and the patient’s doctors can get access to the data), m-Parking allows drivers to pay for city parking using a mobile phone, Mobile-ID allows a client to use a mobile phone as a form of secure electronic ID, Mobile Payment enables payment for goods and services using mobile phones, etc. Estonia has over 3,000 e-services.
Would you like to address any misconceptions about Estonia?
Katre Kasmel: It is not yet quite understood how many e-services Estonia has and how deeply it has integrated Estonians life making it more time-and cost-efficient.
What did e-Estonia hope to achieve with the recent hackathon at Garage48?
Katre Kasmel: Our goal was to draw attention to the fact that all developers and service providers are welcome to develop services to the e-Residency open digital identity platform. The e-Residency platform could in many aspects be compared to the Apple App Store, as it allows to create many needed services to e-Residents. It is very important that the new customer base is recognised by the developers and service providers, who may already offer their services to e-Residents.
Why is e-Estonia the future?
Katre Kasmel: Taking into consideration the continuous population growth, e-Governance increases governments’ efficiency, improves democratic processes, increases the efficiency of public administration, improves public service delivery, and strengthens the openness and transparency of political processes.
The future is transparent, decentralised, cross-border digital infrastructure. Estonia just happens to be the first country to leverage this technology. We can be sure that others will follow.
Featured image from Shutterstock.