Estonia has emerged as a global leader and flag bearer of the digital world and even secured the seventh position in the Digital Economy and Society Index rankings for 2022. This blog attempts to highlight the key initiatives taken by the Estonian government to not only carry out but also secure its digitalization.

Digital adoption by Estonia

1. e-Governance

Estonia has developed a comprehensive e-government system. This comprises of:

  1. e-Administration: This involves the effective and efficient use of ICT in state administration, and aims to keep the government working and available for its citizens 24/7.
  2. e-Services: In Estonia, most state services, such as the Tax and Customs Board, e-File, the Patient Portal, and the e-Business Register, are hosted online.
  3. e-Cabinet: This online infosystem helps ministers and government officials stay updated in real time on all the relevant information required to perform their duties.
  4. i-Voting: This is an initiative that allows voters to cast their votes from their location via the internet, increasing accessibility and providing equal opportunity to all to create a democratic government. Estonia is the only country in the world where online voting on a national scale is possible. During the local 2021 elections, 46.9% of votes were cast via i-Voting as compared to the year 2017 where the figure was just 31

2. e-Identity

Almost 99% of the citizens of Estonia have a state-issued digital ID card called e-ID, which serves as their e-identity. This e-identity enables citizens to carry out activities such as running a business, signing digital signatures on contracts, i-Voting, managing e-Prescriptions, online banking, submitting their taxes, and using it as a legal travel ID while travelling within the EU.

3. e-Banking

Banks in Estonia have played a pivotal role in the country's digital journey by promoting and encouraging the use of e-ID cards for secure bank transactions. All banking services can be done easily in just a few clicks.

4. e-Health Record

The e-Health Record is a powerful single point solution that integrates patients' data from multiple health care providers, and then forms a central health record that patients and health care professionals can access online. This central database allows doctors to view patients' records online and access information such as test results or MRI scans, even from remote hospitals.

5. e-Ambulance

The government of Estonia has provided its citizens with the facility of e-Ambulance, which is an immediate and quick-response solution. It is capable of detecting and making an emergency call to an ambulance within a stipulated period of about 30 seconds for immediate medical response. In emergency situations like these, medical attendants or doctors can use the patient's ID code to get immediate access to their medical history and can provide the treatment straight away without the hassle of looking through multiple health records.

6. e-Prescription

With e-Prescription, medical practitioners can prescribe medicine to patients with the help of an online form, and patients can simply show their e-ID card at the pharmacy. The pharmacist can then access the prescription online and hand over the medicine without hassle.

This system can also be used when patients require refills of the same medicine, thus making the entire process quick and smooth. The health care infrastructure of the country has become very comfortable with the online prescription system, with 99% of all its prescriptions today being issued electronically.

7. e-Tax

The Estonian Tax and Customs Board has set up an electronic tax filing system with which 99% of all tax declarations are filed online by citizens. The e-Tax system allows citizens to perform several actions such as filing personal income tax and customs declarations, and making contributions to the pension fund. One of the key highlights of the system is that it takes only three minutes for citizens to file their taxes online.

8. X-Road

X-Road is a software-based solution Estonia uses to ensure there is interoperability between different organizations and their information systems. The software links together all the e-service information systems of the country's public and private sectors so that they are well synchronized with each other. Since each information system has various services under it, X-Road acts as an umbrella that provides a unified ecosystem where all the information systems with multiple services can talk with each other in a secured gateway, and also carries out searches across multiple information systems simultaneously.

To ensure that the data exchange among the information systems is secure, all the outgoing data is first signed digitally and encrypted, and the incoming data is first authenticated and then further logged into the system.

X-Road is also scalable in nature; two X-Road environments can be joined with each other in what is called a federation. A federation facilitates safer and more secure cross-border data exchange between the ecosystems. Estonia has a federation with Finland; this was instituted between them in February 2018.

9. Bürokratt: A virtual assistant

Bürokratt is Estonia's free virtual assistant platform. It aims to enhance the digital experience for citizens while enabling them to access public services online. The assistant can help citizens with applying for permits, applying for e-Identity, various health schemes, family benefits, filing personal taxes, and more. The state is working in collaboration with the private sector to introduce AI in this platform to make it much more robust and user-friendly.

A forerunner in cybersecurity

Being one of Europe's leading countries in the digital space, it is of paramount importance for Estonia to keep an eye out for any and all potential cyberthreats lurking around.

Keeping this in mind, the country has established a strong and comprehensive cybersecurity framework, and has emerged as one of the most accomplished leaders in the cybersecurity field.

The following are some of the key and monumental steps taken by Estonia in its journey towards bolstering its cybersecurity:

1. KSI blockchain

The government of Estonia has implemented the use of KSI blockchain technology in its public sector networks. This ensures that neither adversaries nor the government can manipulate or tamper with data. The blockchain technology makes it cryptographically possible to prove the accuracy of the data even across vast data flow in the network.

2. Cyber range and exercises

Digital resilience and cybersecurity are an integral part of Estonia's digital journey. The government has established various organizations to manage the cyberdefense-related exercises in the country. One such organization is Cyber Range 14, which was formed by Estonia's Ministry of Defense. The major responsibility of the organization is creating and providing diverse cybersecurity training.

Along with this, it is common for Estonian organizations to conduct cyber ranges and training exercises for employees. To build and enhance digital skills at a very young age, the government has also directed schools and other educational institutes in the country to include cybersecurity in their curriculum.

3. Secure data sharing

Since many activities in Estonia are largely performed online, data exchange also needs to be carefully designed and secured. The government has ensured that the privacy of data during such exchanges is kept as the foremost priority. In no situation is the citizens' data privacy compromised. One of the steps taken in this regard is that the source codes for all the e-public services are kept open and are secured with the joint efforts of both the academic and private sectors.

We hope this blog helped you learn about e-Estonia and the robust cybersecurity defense strategies initiated by the country. Stay tuned for more intriguing reads!

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