Tiny Estonia exports e-government worldwide
Tiny IT-titan Estonia is exporting its e-government technology and expertise across the globe, currently preparing new projects for the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan and Haiti. The Baltic state of 1.3 million people has already helped fellow ex-communist democracies Armenia, Georgia and Moldova, plus a total of 40 states, to implement Internet-based government and services common in Estonia for years, but still not widely available elsewhere.
"It’s common to use all kind of Internet-based solutions here in Estonia, everywhere on the level of central government, the level of municipalities and of course business," Estonia’s Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said recently, as he showed off the oval cabinet table equipped with a shiny new laptop for each minister to a group of foreign journalists.
"The decision-making process thanks to this e-government system is much more transparent. Just a minute or two after the decision-making here, all the people around Estonia or around the world know what happened," Ansip said.
Using special ID cards, Estonians can access virtually all public services via the Internet at the special site www.eesti.ee, including e-voting in national and local elections, as well as checking their medical and police records with a mouse-click.
Ninety-two percent of Estonian taxpayers filed their 2009 annual income tax returns via the Internet, while 79 percent do their banking online at least once a week, official statistics show.
After the end of five decades of Soviet rule in 1991, the minnow nation opted to go hi-tech as fast as possible and earned the nickname "E-stonia".
Estonia, which joined the European Union and NATO in 2004, is keen to export its e-government savvy — and associated transparency — around the globe with a special focus on developing democracies.
At the helm is the Tallinn-based e-Governance Academy (www.ega.ee).
Set up in 2002 by the Estonian government, the United Nations Development Programme and the Open Society Institute, it is a a non-governmental, non-profit organisation, focused on the creation and transfer of Estonian knowledge concerning e-governance, e-democracy and the development of civil society.
The Estonian state finances its projects.
The academy recently announced it would help Afghanistan’s parliament create and implement a modern e-voting system and has been involved in bringing e-government to the Palestinian territories.
Since 2008, Estonia has allocated over five million kroons (320,000 euros, 390,000 dollars) for Palestinian projects, introducing IT equipment for central authorities, public e-services for residents as well as e-solutions in the education system and police force.
"We are very grateful for the help Estonia has provided for Palestine. Estonia has been a true success story in this area and we would like to be one day a similar success story in our region," Palestinian foreign minister Riad al-Malki said during a recent visit to Estonia.
"Estonia’s experience has shown that implementing IT-technology helps to increase the openness of governance and to promote reforms better, and we are just happy when we can share our best practice this way with other states," Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet told AFP.