Time for More Digital Republics? Considering Estonia

Since 2005, Estonians have been able to vote online, from anywhere in the world. Estonians log on with their digital ID card and vote as many times as they want during the pre-voting period, with each vote canceling the last. This unique technological solution has safeguarded Estonian voters against fraud, use of force, and other manipulations of remote voting that many American voters are apprehensive about in the 2020 US election.

en flag
nl flag
et flag
fi flag
fr flag
de flag
pt flag
ru flag
es flag

Content Assessment: Estonia is a 'Digital Republic' – What That Means and Why It May Be Everyone's Future

Information - 90%
Insight - 95%
Relevance - 85%
Objectivity - 90%
Authority - 90%

90%

Excellent

A short percentage-based assessment of the qualitative benefit of the recent post highlighting some important technological attributes of one of the world's most advanced digital countries, Estonia.

Editor’s Note: Shared with permission from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license, the article titled “Estonia is a ‘Digital Republic’ – What That Means and Why It May Be Everyone’s Future,” highlights unique attributes of one of the world’s leading digital societies. Attributes, ranging from online voting to infrastructure interoperability, that are becoming increasingly important in today’s highly digitized and decentralized world.

Registered as a private limited company in Estonia, ComplexDiscovery OÜ operates virtually worldwide and takes advantage of many of the capabilities of Estonia’s advanced digital infrastructure, capabilities that may also be of interest to legal, business, and information technology professionals regardless of their physical location.

Estonia is a ‘Digital Republic’ – What That Means and Why It May Be Everyone’s Future

An article by Dr. Imtiaz Khan, ​Reader (Associate Professor) in Data Science, Cardiff Metropolitan University and Ali Shahaab, PhD Candidate, Distributed Ledgers / Blockchain Technology, Cardiff Metropolitan University

People around the globe have been watching the build-up to the US election with disbelief. Particularly confusing to many is the furor over postal ballots, which the US president, Donald Trump is insisting will lead to large-scale voter fraud – despite a complete lack of evidence to back this. And yet this issue has become a central feature of the debate.

Citizens of Estonia, a small nation in the Baltic region, will perhaps be particularly perplexed: since 2005, Estonians have been able to vote online, from anywhere in the world. Estonians log on with their digital ID card and vote as many times as they want during the pre-voting period, with each vote canceling the last. This unique technological solution has safeguarded Estonian voters against fraud, use of force, and other manipulations of remote voting that many American voters are apprehensive about in the 2020 US election.

Voting online is just the start. Estonia offers the most comprehensive governmental online services in the world. In the US, it takes an average taxpayer with no business income eight hours to file a tax return. In Estonia, it takes just five minutes. In the UK, billions of pounds have been spent on IT, yet the NHS still struggles to make patient data accessible across different health boards. In Estonia, despite having multiple private health service providers, doctors can collate and visualize patient records whenever and wherever necessary, with consent from patients – a real boon in the country’s fight against coronavirus.

Branding itself the first “digital republic” in the world, Estonia has digitized 99% of its public services. And, in an era when trust in public services are declining across the globe, Estonia persistently achieves one of the highest ratings of trust in government in the EU. The Estonian government claims that this digitization of public services saves more than 1,400 years of working time and 2% of its GDP annually.

The Tiger Leap

The foundation of this digital republic dates back to 1997, a time when only 1.7% of the world population had internet access, a start-up called Google had just registered its domain name and British prime minister John Major was celebrating the launch of 10 Downing Street’s official website.

Meanwhile, the government of the newly formed state of Estonia envisaged the creation of a digital society, where all citizens would be technologically literate and governance would be paperless, decentralized, transparent, efficient, and equitable. The young post-Soviet government decided to ditch all communist-era legacy technologies and inefficient public service structure.

In a radical move, the government – which had an average age of 35 – also decided not to embrace western technologies. Neighbouring Finland offered an analog telephone exchange as a gift and the Estonian government declined, envisaging communicating over the internet rather than analog telephone.

The government of Estonia launched a project called Tiigrihüpe (Tiger Leap) in 1997, investing heavily in development and the expansion of internet networks and computer literacy. Within a year of its inception, almost all (97%) of Estonian schools had internet access and by 2000, Estonia was the first country to pass legislation declaring access to the internet a basic human right. Free wi-fi hotspots started being built in 2001, and now cover almost all populated areas of the country.

The government also understood that, in order to create a knowledge-based society, information needs to be shared efficiently while maintaining privacy. This was a radical understanding, even in the context of today, when for most countries, data sharing among different organizations’ databases is still limited. It is predicted that by 2022, 93% of the world’s total data collected or stored will be such “dark” or siloed data.

Two decades ago, in 2001, Estonia created an anti-silo data management system called X-Road through which public and private organizations can share data securely while maintaining data privacy through cryptography. Initially developed by Estonia, the project is now a joint collaboration between Estonia and Finland.

A large number of the Estonian government and financial institutions using X-Road came under cyber-attack from Russian IP addresses in 2007. This attack made clear how vulnerable centralized data management systems are, and so Estonia required a distributed technology that is resistant to cyber-attack. Addressing this need, in 2012 Estonia became the first country to use blockchain technology for governance.

Blockchain Governance

Distributed ledger technology, commonly known as blockchain, is the underpinning technology of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. The technology has moved on significantly since its inception in 2009 and is now used for a variety of applications, from supply chains to fighting injustice.

Blockchain is an open-source distributed ledger or database system in which an updated copy of the records is available to all stakeholders at all times. Due to this distributed nature, it is almost impossible for a single person or company to hack everybody’s ledger, ensuring security against cyberattacks.

Deploying blockchain technology not only ensures protection against any future attacks but also poses many other benefits to Estonians. For example, in most countries, citizens have to fill in many different forms with the same personal information (name, address) when they need to access public services from different government agencies. In Estonia, citizens only need to input their personal information once: the blockchain system enables the relevant data to be immediately accessible to the required department.

This might scare people worried about data privacy. But citizens, not the government, own their personal data in Estonia. Citizens have a digital ID card and approve which part of their information can be reused by which public service. Estonians know that even government officials can’t access their personal data beyond what is approved by them for the required public service. Any unauthorized attempt to access personal data will be identified as invalid: indeed, it is a criminal offense in Estonia for officials to gain unauthorized access to personal data. This transfer of ownership and control of personal data to individuals is facilitated by blockchain technology.

This should be an inspiration for the rest of the world. It is true that most countries do not have similar circumstances to post-Soviet Estonia when the Tiger Leap was introduced. But the same futuristic mindset is required to address the challenge of declining trust.

Additional Reading

Source: ComplexDiscovery

Have a Request?

If you have information or offering requests that you would like to ask us about, please let us know and we will make our response to you a priority.

ComplexDiscovery is an online publication that highlights data and legal discovery insight and intelligence ranging from original research to aggregated news for use by business, information technology, and legal professionals. The highly targeted publication seeks to increase the collective understanding of readers regarding data and legal discovery information and issues and to provide an objective resource for considering trends, technologies, and services related to electronically stored information.

ComplexDiscovery OÜ is a technology marketing firm providing strategic planning and tactical execution expertise in support of data and legal discovery organizations. Registered as a private limited company in the European Union country of Estonia, one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world, ComplexDiscovery OÜ operates virtually worldwide to deliver marketing consulting and services.

A (Brand) New Approach? Considering the Framework and Structure of eDiscovery Offerings

Today’s eDiscovery providers may benefit from the lessons learned in the creation of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album by creating a concept for branding and packaging their offerings within that brand in a connected, theme-based way that represents the offerings’ promise and capability in a way that is easy to understand and remember.



Check Out the New Approach Now!

Interested in Contributing?

ComplexDiscovery combines original industry research with curated expert articles to create an informational resource that helps legal, business, and information technology professionals better understand the business and practice of data discovery and legal discovery.

All contributions are invested to support the development and distribution of ComplexDiscovery content. Contributors can make as many article contributions as they like, but will not be asked to register and pay until their contribution reaches $5.

Resetting the Baseline? eDiscovery Market Size Adjustments for 2020

An unanticipated pandemeconomic-driven retraction in eDiscovery spending during 2020 has resulted...

New from NIST: Integrating Cybersecurity and Enterprise Risk Management (ERM)

NIST has released NISTIR 8286, Integrating Cybersecurity and Enterprise Risk Management...

A Cloudy Alliance? A Next-Generation Cloud for Europe

According to Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, "Europe needs...

Five Great Reads on eDiscovery for October 2020

From business confidence and captive ALSPs to digital republics and mass...

A Running List: Top 100+ eDiscovery Providers

Based on a compilation of research from analyst firms and industry...

The eDisclosure Systems Buyers Guide – 2020 Edition (Andrew Haslam)

Authored by industry expert Andrew Haslam, the eDisclosure Buyers Guide continues...

The Race to the Starting Line? Recent Secure Remote Review Announcements

Not all secure remote review offerings are equal as the apparent...

Enabling Remote eDiscovery? A Snapshot of DaaS

Desktop as a Service (DaaS) providers are becoming important contributors to...

Resetting the Baseline? eDiscovery Market Size Adjustments for 2020

An unanticipated pandemeconomic-driven retraction in eDiscovery spending during 2020 has resulted...

Home or Away? New eDiscovery Collection Market Sizing and Pricing Considerations

One of the key home (onsite) or away (remote) decisions that...

Revisions and Decisions? New Considerations for eDiscovery Secure Remote Reviews

One of the key revision and decision areas that business, legal,...

A Macro Look at Past and Projected eDiscovery Market Size from 2012 to 2024

From a macro look at past estimations of eDiscovery market size...

A Season of Change? Eighteen Observations on eDiscovery Business Confidence in the Fall of 2020

In the fall of 2020, 77.2% of eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey...

The Continuing Case of Budgetary Constraints in the Business of eDiscovery

In the fall of 2020, 49.4% of respondents viewed budgetary constraints...

Outstanding Accounts? eDiscovery Operational Metrics in the Fall of 2020

In the fall of 2020, eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey more...

Holding the Rudder? Fall 2020 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey Results

This is the twentieth quarterly eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey conducted by...

DISCO Raises $60 Million

According to the media release, DISCO will use this investment to...

Rampiva and the RYABI Group Merge

According to today's announcement, the RYABI Group merger is Rampiva's first...

eDiscovery Mergers, Acquisitions, and Investments in Q3 2020

From HaystackID and NightOwl Global to Reveal Data and NexLP, the...

Mitratech Acquires Acuity ELM

According to Mike Williams, CEO of Mitratech, “We came to the...

Five Great Reads on eDiscovery for October 2020

From business confidence and captive ALSPs to digital republics and mass...

Five Great Reads on eDiscovery for September 2020

From cloud forensics and cyber defense to social media and surveys,...

Five Great Reads on eDiscovery for August 2020

From predictive coding and artificial intelligence to antitrust investigations and malware,...

Five Great Reads on eDiscovery for July 2020

From business confidence and operational metrics to data protection and privacy...