Estonia, located next to Finland in northeastern Europe, regained independence from the USSR in 1991. Since then, the Estonian government has sought to redesign its entire information infrastructure from scratch with goals of openness, privacy and security. The technology platform that Estonia built to serve its citizens sets an example for the rest of the world. Each citizen has one ID number to use across all systems, from paper passport to bank records to any government office or medical care. This includes giving electronic signatures, filing taxes and voting. Estonians elect their parliament online, and get their taxes back in two days.
The liquid movement of data, along with privacy and security are of primary importance. Citizens have the ability to choose who can see their information. A citizen cannot block the state from seeing their data, but they can see who has accessed their data and file an inquiry to have an official fired if their information is accessed without valid reason. Estonia is a world leader in cyber security and home of the NATO Cyber Defense Center.
The United States can learn a lot from Estonia, Ben Horowitz and Sten Tamkivi suggest: get the key infrastructure right, instead of building web sites to try to manage large public projects (i.e. Heathcare.gov), and respect citizens’ privacy while being transparent and innovative. Estonia shows how this is possible.
Source: Ben Horowitz and Sten Tamkivi, “Estonia: The Little Country that Cloud”, January 272014, http://www.bhorowitz.com/estonia_the_little_country_that_cloud.
Student Researcher: Ashley Ibarra (San Francisco State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)