Estonia’s e-government

Estonia shows what you can do reports The Register:

In the Autumn of 2014 my wife was posted to Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, for six months. One of the delights of being a technology analyst is you can you work anywhere there is good internet access. Estonia has excellent internet coverage plus 4G available throughout the country (even in rural areas – a matter or government policy). In addition, ‘being ‘local’ means you can explore the digital business scene.

So, armed with my identification documents, I went to a designated e-Resident office, having previously made an appointment online (of course). Although I brought passport-sized photos I was directed to a standard-seeming photo-booth which took my picture. Then I met a courteous Estonian officer who swiftly took my details and bio-identifiers while also linking to my electronic pictures from the photo-booth. I was told I would receive an email in two weeks if my application was not refused.

Thirteen days later the promised email arrived. I returned to the same office to sign for a package that included my e-Resident card and a neat, and super-small USB e-Resident card reader. Nothing in the process could have been simpler or more easily delivered (and from 1 April 2015 it has been possible to achieve the same at selected Estonian embassies.)

With an e-Resident card you can set up a business remotely operating from Estonia. As an e-Resident you can do everything legally required for a business by electronic means from afar, including setting up a company, signing contracts, opening bank accounts, making and receiving payments and paying all taxes.

I like the concept of e-residents.

Today’s Estonian citizen can (though he or she does not have to):

  • Identify themselves, via e-ID, an electronic identity system

  • Vote (iVote, available since 2007)

  • Complete tax returns (and make payments or receive refunds)

  • Obtain and fulfil prescriptions (eHealth)

  • Participate in census completion

  • Review accumulated pension contributions and values

  • Perform banking, including making and receiving payments

  • Pay and interact with utilities (like water, gas and electricity)

  • Interact with the education system (e-Education)

  • Set up businesses

  • Sign contracts

  • And more.

We’re not too far off. We can do most tax stuff online, and the census is online. Banks and utilities are all online. Education is getting there.

For example, digitising the police now enables a police officer in a patrol car to verify a car’s legality and insurance by querying the car registration system. If this shows the owner is a driver who has been convicted of a drink-driving offence within the past two years the police officer can stop and breathalyse that driver. Convicted drunk-drivers know this; unsurprisingly repeat drink-driving re-offences have fallen.

A good way to target.

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