Lessons from the World’s Most Tech-Savvy Government — Estonia

Just to point this as a start – Estonians actually elect their Parliament online!

I was amazed to read this piece by Sten Tamkivi (of The Atlantic) on Estonia’s emergence as a tech powerhouse . It lost a lot of years due to Soviet Occupation in 1991 but has geared up really well since then. It has taken on the technology big way.

Estonia is perhaps in the news for wrong reasons. First, it became the 17th member of EU in 2011 and then this battle with Krugman over its austerity policy..

We should be talking more about its ventures with technology:

The Estonian story is certainly special. The country achieved re-independence after 50 unfortunate years of Soviet occupation in 1991, having missed much of the technological progress made by the Western world in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. -’80s, including checkbooks and mainframe computers. Nevertheless, the country jumped right on the mid-’90s bandwagon of TCP/IP-enabled web apps. During this social reset, Estonians also decided to throw their former communist leaders overboard and elect new leadership, often ministers in their late-20s capable of disruptive thinking.

But then again, all this was 20 years ago. Estonia has by many macroeconomic and political standards become a “boring European state,” stable and predictable, if still racing to close the gap with Old Europe from its time behind the Iron Curtain. Still, Estonia is a start-up country—not just by life stage, but by mindset.

And this is what United States, along with many other countries struggling toget the Internet, could learn from Estonia: the mindset. The willingness to get the key infrastructure right and continuously re-invent it. Before you build a health-insurance site, you need to look at what key components must exist for such a service to function optimally: signatures, transactions, legal frameworks, and the like.

Ultimately, the states that create these kinds of environments will be best positioned to attract the world’s increasingly mobile citizens. 

One obvious and big advantage is the small population – just 1.3 million:

Estonia may not show up on Americans’ radar too often. It is a tiny country in northeastern Europe, just next to Finland. It has the territory of the Netherlands, but 13 times less people—its 1.3 million inhabitants is comparable to Hawaii’s population. As a friend from India recently quipped, “What is there to govern?”

What makes this tiny country interesting in terms of governance is not just that the people can elect their parliament online or get tax overpayments back within two days of filing their returns. It is also that this level of service for citizens is not the result of the government building a few websites. Instead, Estonians started by redesigning their entire information infrastructure from the ground up with openness, privacy, security, and ‘future-proofing’ in mind.

Despite the small size, one cannot take the credit away from the country..Amazing case study..

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