Estonia is a small country bordering Russia, Latvia and Finland. It boasts of an advanced information management platform for government.
This platform is the X-Road platform which is an invisible but crucial backbone for data transactions between the various e-services databases in the public and private sectors. X-Road facilitates harmonious interoperability.
Estonia’s data stores are de-centralised meaning:
- There is no single owner / controller
- Every government agency or business can choose the right products suitable for them
- Services are added one at a time, as they are ready
All Estonian services that use multiple data stores use X-Road as a central connection between these data stores. All outgoing data from X-Road is digitally signed and encrypted. All incoming data is authenticated and logged.
X-Road was a system built to facilitate multi-data store queries, but has evolved to also facilitate multi-data store writes, and transmit large datasets. It was also designed for growth and currently supports:
- 287 million queries (2013)
- Connects 170 database in Estonia
- Provides 2000 services in Estonia
- Connects 900 organisations daily
- Supports >50% of Estonians who use the government portal Eesti.ee
Services provided via X-Road include:
- Electronic Registration of residency
- Updating personal data (like address, exam results, health insurance etc…)
- Declare taxes electronically
- Check driving license validity
- Check for registered vehicles
- Registering newborn children for health insurance
Estonia showcases its e-society here. To transform its society into a community of digital governance and tech-savvy individuals, children as young as 7 are taught the principles and basics of coding.
Estonians are driven, forward-thinking and entrepreneurial, and the same goes for the government. It takes only five minutes to register a company there and, according to The Economist, the country in 2013 held the world record for the number of startups per person. And it’s not quantity over quality: Many Estonian startups are now successful companies that you may recognize, such as Skype, Transferwise, Pipedrive, Cloutex, Click & Grow, GrabCAD, Erply, Fortumo, Lingvist and others.
If all this sounds enticing and you wish to become an entrepreneur there, you’re in luck; starting a business in Estonia is easy, and you can do it without packing your bags, thanks to its e-residency service, a transnational digital identity available to anyone. An e-resident can not only establish a company in Estonia through the Internet, but they can also have access to other online services that have been available to Estonians for over a decade. This includes e-banking and remote money transfers, declaring Estonian taxes online, digitally signing and verifying contracts and documents, and much more.
E-residents are issued a smart ID card, a legal equivalent to handwritten signatures and face-to-face identification in Estonia and worldwide. The cards themselves are protected by 2048-bit encryption, and the signature/ID functionality is provided by two security certificates stored on the card’s microchip.
But great innovations don’t stop there. Blockchain, the principle behind bitcoin that also secures the integrity of e-residency data, will be used to provide unparalleled safety to 1 million Estonian health records. The blockchain will be used to register any and all changes, illicit or otherwise, done to the health records, protecting their authenticity and effectively eliminating any abuse of the data therein.
There are many lessons we can learn from Estonia. To increases efficiency and maturity of services, a country needs to be willing to adapt and evolve infrastructure to the needs to the new economy. These include transparency, precise and equitable delivery of services to the community.