Estonians Embrace Life in a Digital World
But the people have fully embraced the digital world, enthusiastically adopting public and private online services — offering a snapshot of a society that lives first and foremost online.
Estonians, using a national identity card embedded with a microchip, gain access to some 4,000 services, including banking, business registration and even fishing licenses. They review medical records and order prescriptions on smartphones. Almost everyone files taxes on the web within minutes, and about a third of voters now cast their ballots online.
The rest of the world — particularly Europe — has taken notice. The country’s former prime minister, Andrus Ansip, has been tapped to become the new European Commission vice president in charge of Europe’s digital future. If he is confirmed for the job by Europe’s lawmakers, he will face pressure to improve online privacy and give people greater control over their information, which stands somewhat at odds with Estonia’s approach to digital services.
“We have to protect everyone’s privacy,” he said. “Trust is a basic principle. If people can’t trust e-services, they will never use them.”
But he also pushed the upside of going digital. “I know from personal experience that paperless government can work,” he said.