The past week I had the opportunity to visit Estonia for the first time. Estonia sits in the northern region of Europe with various terrains that give rise to a few hundreds of islands within the country. The nation is a tourist’s dream location with preserved old towns, museums and the 314-meter-tall TV tower in the country’s capital, Tallinn.
Like China, Estonia are also in their good times and it goes beyond kiiking, free public transportation in Tallinn, online voting, a flat tax system and the preserved medieval architecture. These days, only few nations can hold their own against Estonia’s online prowess and tech solutions, even though Russia’s hack into their system back in 2007 was an added motivation. Since the episode the Estonian government have made bold and adequate moves to sure up the nation’s database which holds sensitive personal information of the Estonian citizens.
The Epic Story of the e-State
It will not be out of place to say the local culture in Estonia is that of technology. The country has a long history of developing digital services and granting their citizens free, secure and centralized data. Tech solutions like e-School have been rolled out nationwide and Hospitals now have all medical information of every citizen worked into digital data. In real state, the database is heavy with information as this goes as far as displaying the location and aerial photograph of properties and information on respective owners. Individuals looking to buy properties now have a platform to get a more detailed sight of the conditions and historical data related to the properties in mind. This enhances purchase decision for prospective buyers.
Similar technology exists in other countries like Denmark, where I live, but Estonia goes a tad better by ensuring her citizens actually wields ultimate control over how their data is used. Citizens get notifications whenever any government authority pulls up a file on them, and unlike nations where the personal data of the people are at the mercy of the government (I’m looking at you NSA!), authorization is required to pull up personal data of any Estonian citizen.
By Estonian citizen I mean, of course, people who live and work in the country. However, about 2 years ago, Estonia took the bold steps to turn their ambitious national project into a digital service available to peoples around the globe. The creation of e-Estonia allowed for governments and businesses to cut all the bureaucracy that often hinders progress. It allowed for efficiency, transparency and, most importantly, for confidence.
We all know we pay taxes to support the services provided by our governments. But have you ever wondered exactly how much of your taxes fund the different activities of the government? Some of the added benefits of the e-Estonia allows citizens to calculate how much income tax they will pay, visualize in real time, how much of the total tax generated will be distributed amongst the various governmental services, such as environmental, defense, transport, etc. Cool, huh?
Transparency is key
The e-Estonia project has something for everybody including entrepreneurs, as being in a nation with low corporate taxes and a tech solution second to none is the fantasy of every foreign investor or entrepreneur. In return, Estonia benefits from the growing numbers of foreign entrepreneurs doing trade in the country. The e-Estonia allows public company data to be available and easily accessible to the public. Citizens may view tax revenues of companies as well as who the leading individuals of the companies are including the board of directors. No stone is left unturned in the e-Estonia, data are so thoroughly interconnected that citizens may see what other company’s these individuals are affiliated to from other borders.
As you may or may not know, I am from Brazil. A country that ever so often is portrayed in the news drowning in the misdeeds of corrupted politicians. In countries like mine, where governmental procedures and data are far from the attention of the citizens, it is easy for corruption to exist. However, if the system was transparent, it would become a tad more difficult for corrupt deeds to transpire since the consequences of being caught will be triggered often. You can imagine how blissful it is to me to see the amazing achievements Estonia has accomplished in this matter. The transparency incorporated into every one of these new developments is an exemplary light to follow in curbing corruption.
In the past, guns, arms and violence have been employed by nations to fight corruption (Ask the French). However, Estonia is bringing the fight from a different perspective, transparency! The e-Estonia has laid bare all corporate actions before the eyes of every citizen, even the world to some extent. Features like online voting and digitalization of the information system are tech solutions that will ensure corruption stays at its barest minimum for years to come.
I can see a few nations already walking up the footstep of Estonia like Denmark, my country of residence. Though I believe Denmark still has a long way to go and should pay close attention to our Estonian neighbors.