Estonia is one of the smallest countries in the world with a population of 1,304,845 million people and a land mass of 42,390 Km2.
Everything is online, almost.
However, Estonia may be the most digitalized country in the world with 99% of its public services available online 24/7. The only things you can not do online are marriages, divorces and real-estate transactions.
The small European country is said to have developed a safe, convenient and flexible digital system reputed to be unprecedentedly transparent and trusted.
Elections too can be done online.
In 2005, Estonia introduced an internet voting system called i-Voting and became the first country in the world to hold nation-wide elections using the method.
According to the country’s website,
“During a designated pre-voting period, the voter logs onto the system with a computer using an ID-card or Mobile-ID, and casts a ballot. The voter’s identity is removed from the ballot before it reaches the National Electoral Commission for counting, thereby ensuring anonymity.”
The solution allows voters to log on and vote as many times as they want during a pre-voting period. Since each vote cancels the last, a voter has the option of changing his or her vote later. It the last vote cast before the cut off time that counts.
Advance voting takes place between the 10th until the 4th day before the election day. Voter applications are published immediately before the start of i-voting on the opening page of the elections web page, along with the information and references needed for i-voting. You do not need an electronic voter’s card for i-voting.
So for any election, you can vote from the convenience of your home if you so wish.
There are no incidents of ballot stuffing, ballot box snatching, vote buying or hacking of card readers.
E-residency (Virtual citizenship)
On December 1, 2014 Estonia came up with another ingenious program called “E-residency” which allows people from different parts of the world to become residents of the country from wherever they are.
The program allows non-Estonians access to Estonian services such as company formation, banking, payment processing, and taxation. The program which is aimed towards location-independent entrepreneursoffers an e-resident a smart card which they can use to sign documents for business transactions.
So if you live in a country whose financial system hampers business and makes it difficult to have access to world wide banking facilities, Estonia’s E-residency program is your solution.
The process is simple and done online. Once you have completed the necessary forms and successful screened, you are invited either to Estonia or any of its embassies in your country or a nearby country for an interview. If successful, you are then issued with an E-residency identify card.
A small country. So what?
While discussing Estonia’s digital adventures with a few persons in the process of putting this piece together, I heard the argument that the country is able to do what it is doing because it is small. That is an argument that does not hold water. There are at least 38 other countries that are smaller than Estonia that are in digital darkness.
Estonia has chosen a particular “way of life” that can be emulated in various degrees by much bigger countries.
Your bed as you made it.
Countries, like individuals lie on their beds as they have made it. America, for instance, is one of the most advanced countries in the world but remains backwards in its electoral process and universal health care.
Development is more often than not a matter of the choices made by the leaders of a country.
Every country needs to learn some good lessons on how to get things done. But perpetual learning without doing the right thing makes a country stink.