What you need to know
For a small country, Estonia has made a big impression on the global stage.
The Baltic nation of just 1.3 million people has attracted the attention of world leaders, academics and venture capitalists thanks to its high-tech digital society.
The numbers speak for themselves: Taxes are completed online in under 5 minutes, 99% of Estonia's public services are available on the web 24 hours a day and nearly one-third of citizens vote via the internet.
"We have a generation who has grown up knowing that you communicate digitally with your school because we have an e-school system, with your doctor because of e-health," Estonia's president Kersti Kaljulaid told CNBC in an interview in Tallinn in August. "You could say the Estonian government offers what normally only the private sector can offer to people."
When Estonia gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the country embarked on a series of fast-track reforms to modernize the economy. From the start, it took a digital approach. "Estonia was a relatively poor country," Kaljulaid said. "Our public sector, our government and our civil servants wanted to offer our people good quality services. We did it straight away digitally because it was simply cheaper, easy."
A key initiative started in education as Estonia pledged to put computers in every classroom and by 2000, every school in the country was online. The government also offered free computer training to 10% of the adult population. The effort helped raise the percentage of Estonians who use the internet from 29% in 2000 to 91% in 2016.
In 2002, Estonia launched a high-tech national ID system. Physical ID cards are paired with digital signatures that Estonians use to pay taxes, vote, do online banking and access their health care records. "Instead of just having an offline ID card, you need something that works online," said Tobias Koch, a business engagement manager at the e-Estonia showroom
Other intriguing digital innovations covered in this article are as follows:
- E-residency: an initiative that allows individuals to start businesses in the country without living there
- Digital nomad visa: A visa for employees who work remotely around the world
- The unicorn king: Efforts like e-Residency and the digital nomad visa, along with business-friendly tax rates, have helped encourage a strong and prosperous start-up culture.
That being said, as in all scenarios, roadblocks will always be present. Cyber incidents with online databases and programs like e-Residency have made Estonia vulnerable to dirty money and sanctions breaches. “Cyber hygiene" is essential for every citizen, You will always be teaching and educating people," Kaljulaid said. "It's like teaching hygiene. You wash your hands because germs spread."
Value for the UAE Government:
As the UAE embarks on a mission to be one of the most digitally advanced nations in a minimal amount of time, Estonia can provide a blue-print on the building blocks for such a challenge.
Key takeaways from the article include a grassroots approach towards young individuals being tech-savvy and creating a habitual “Cyber hygiene” culture to tackle all the negatives that come with a digitally invested society.
Read more: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/08/how-estonia-became-a-digital-society.html