e-Estonia refers to a movement by the government of Estonia to facilitate citizen interactions with the state through the use of electronic solutions. E-services created under this initiative include i-Voting, e-Tax Board, e-Business, e-Banking, e-Ticket, e-School, University via internet, the e-Governance Academy , as well as the release of several mobile applications.
In 1991, Estonia restored its independence as a sovereign nation, defeating the Soviet occupation. Prior to this, there was little in the way of technology. Under half of its population had a phone line. Following independence, the first Prime Minister Mart Laar helped push the country through a period of modernization, establishing the foundation needed to bring the country into the digital age.
Digital reform followed through to the present. Early during the reform Estonia refused an offer from Finland to give it its old analogue telephone exchange for free, electing instead to build its own digital phone system. An initiative to provide schools with computers succeeded in granting every school in the country with internet access by 1998. In 2000, the government declared internet access to be a human right, causing its spread into rural areas.
System architect Tarvi Martens was described in The New Yorker as the "putative grandfather of Estonia’s digital platform".
In late 2014 Estonia became the first country to offer electronic residency to people from outside the country, a step that the Estonian government terms as "moving towards the idea of a country without borders." Under this program, non-residents can apply to have a smart ID card issued to them by the state, providing the same access to Estonia's various electronic services that a physical resident would be given. Use of the card for authentication with these services requires a four digit pin code. The card, in conjunction with a separate pin code, also allows e-residents to digitally sign documents over the internet, a practice that is legally binding anywhere in the EU.
While e-residency provides access to these services, it does not grant physical residency, the right to enter the country, or the ability to use the smart ID card as physical identification or as a travel document.
The data for e-Estonia is not stored centrally, but instead uses a data platform run by the government called X-Road to link information from local hosts. The system is backed up on servers in Luxembourg, which is governed with the same protections afforded for a diplomatic mission. The system is designed to allow the government of Estonia to function even in the event of an invasion by Russia.
Individuals are able to access all e-Estonia data about themselves, and all queries to the system are logged.
- Cuthbertson, Anthony (October 7, 2014). "Estonia First Country to Offer E-Residency Digital Citizenship". International Business Times. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
- "Estonia takes the plunge". The Economist. June 26, 2014. Archived from the original on July 1, 2014. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
- Scott, Mark (October 8, 2014). "Estonians Embrace Life in a Digital World". The New York Times. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
- "e-Estonia: The Making of An Information Age Society". The World Bank. May 27, 2014. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
- "e-Estonia:Life in a networked Society". YouTube. e-Estonia. Feb 13, 2013. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
- Aasmae, Kalev. "'This is so freaking huge man, it's insane': The plan to let anyone become European – digitally". ZDNet. CBS Interactive. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
- Mansel, Tim (May 16, 2013). "How Estonia became E-stonia". BBC News. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
- "e-Estonia". Estonia.eu. Estonian Foreign Ministry and Enterprise Estonia. Archived from the original on January 25, 2017. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
- Heller, Nathan (December 18, 2017). "Estonia, the Digital Republic". The New Yorker. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
- "What is e-Residency?". e-estonia.com. ICT Export Cluster. Archived from the original on April 24, 2015. Retrieved February 2, 2015.