Estonia is internationally acknowledged as an e-country. A digital society built by Estonians has no equal in the world. The uniqueness of the Estonian digital ecosystem attracts more and more people every year. Entrepreneurs and professionals from around the globe come to Estonia to either invest and start a business or take advantage of the career opportunities that the Estonian market is happy to offer.
The actual ‘e-Estonia’ term refers to a movement started by the government to simplify the lives of the country’s citizens. In fact, the government seek to use IT to help people initiate contact with the government authorities themselves.
Starting from some minor but significant for its time solutions, Estonia has progressively developed fantastic innovations.
Digital reform followed through to the present took place in the second of the 1990s. Interestingly, during the reform, Estonia refused an offer from Finland that wanted to give Estonians its old analogue telephone exchange for free. Estonian government instead decided to build its digital phone system — and as we the results now, it was a proper decision.
Another idea to provide schools with computers was successfully implemented, and every school in the country was supplied with internet access by 1998. That was the fundamental initiative that established the path to e-Estonia. Since then, the process of e-reform has been initiated.
Let’s look at some of the most notable e-achievements.
It was when private banks decided to act to attract people and make them go online. The first banks to introduce Internet banking services in Estonia were Eesti Forekspank and Eesti Hoiupank.
The idea worked excellently, and as a result, most of us now have a banking app on the phone.
The launching of the e-tax board allowed thousands of citizens to declare online many times faster than they used to. Now, 98 per cent of the Estonian population declare their income electronically.
Using a secure ID, a taxpayer logs onto the system, reviews the data using forms, makes any necessary changes, and approves the declaration form. The process usually takes three to five minutes.
It should be considered one of the significant achievements that enabled Estonia to become a digital society. x-Road is a technological and organisational platform enabling secured Internet-based data exchanging between information systems that runs the entire infrastructure.
x-Road connects the systems and allows the secured connection, encrypted and digitally signed. A good example for x-Road could be the opportunity for police to check driving licenses in the database. As new e-services emerge, they become part of the x-Road infrastructure.
The electronic ID now is something that nearly every Estonian has. What is more important — it forms the basis for many e-solutions currently existing in the digital society. In other words, they would be impossible or more complicated to use without e-ID.
So, e-ID is a digital form of the Estonian ID that enables online portals starting from e-banking and e-tax system and continuing with the internet provider.
The physical Estonian ID itself is more than just an identity document. It is also used as a health insurance card and passport equivalent. The digitalisation of the ID has added more functions — e-voting, e-document signing, e-prescriptions, e-banking and many more.
The main idea behind the e-ID — accessing different kinds of personal data and services, and as of today, 99 per cent of such public services for citizens are available online.
“Estonians trust e-solutions. This trust is based on practical experience and the knowledge that a citizen’s digital identity grants that person the necessary rights and freedoms in e-environments. A citizen can, for example, see what queries concerning them have been made from Estonia’s national information systems. However, the main thing is that Estonians have experienced that e-solutions do make their lives easier and more convenient,” said Eliisa Sau, Chief Expert of the Police and Border Guard Board.
Since 2007, Estonia is leading international cybersecurity efforts. Since 2008, Estonia has been at the centre of global cybersecurity argument when NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (NATO CCDCOE) was established in Tallinn, the capital.
NATO CCDCOE is a military think-tank that formed outleads the world in crafting cyber defence solutions through a multinational and a NATO-accredited knowledge hub. Its main task is the analysis of various cyber issues.
The CCDCOE is ALSO responsible for identifying and coordinating education and training solutions in cyber defence for all NATO bodies across the Alliance. NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence is a group of international specialists in cyber security. They include legal scholars, policy and strategy experts as well as technology researchers with political backgrounds.
As of today, Estonia is hosting both European and NATO cyber security centres.
This year, Estonians have designed KSI — a blockchain technology providing high-speed and real-time authentication for global web assets. Blockchain technology makes it impossible to change the data already on the blockchain.
In Estonia, KSI is used by the government to protect government e-services and prevent cyber attacking. KSI secures the information stored in the cloud so that no one, even the government, could manipulate it.
Among the services, there is also an e-Business register that contains information regarding companies based in Estonia
Among other e-Estonia achievements, the e-Residency programme launched in 2014 has mostly to do with the business sector and eventually has changed the Estonian business world forever.
e-Residency provides a digital ID to users, which allows them to log into different online services in Estonia, such as online banks and government portals. The primary motivation to apply is to create and run an EU-based company 100% online. This gives entrepreneurs from all over the world the opportunity to run a business remotely.
In that way, it allows every willing foreigner to set up a company in Estonia remotely by applying online. e-Residency will help those who are not Estonian citizens but want to enter or invest in the Estonian market.
So far, nearly 80,000 entrepreneurs have already joined the digital nation, many of whom successfully develop their businesses in Estonia with e-Residency.
e-Residency is a crucial thing when speaking of the country’s attractiveness to foreign entrepreneurs. Being the first digital nations for the world’s citizens, e-Residency helped thousands of entrepreneurs, therefore, contributed to the development of the Estonian business environment by attracting minds and talents worldwide.
Company formation by a foreigner has never been that easy — still, you may need professional assistance. The application is submitted remotely with the payment of a state fee in the amount of 100–120 EUR. The e-Residency kit itself is issued to the applicant personally at one of the approved points of issue. At Company in Estonia OÜ, we are happy to guide our clients and help in obtaining an e-Resident card.
There are much more achievements of e-Estonia and, within this article, we haven’s covered things like e-health, e-prescription, m-parking or i-voting that, in fact, are innovative and deserve attention. However, the main focus is e-Estonia and its connection with the business sector.
As you can see, many e-solutions have contributed to the development of the Estonian business sector. Whilst some e-services as e-Residency has directly affected the growth of a business community, the development of KSI technologies and overall IT progress also played a significant part.