By Yaasmeen Piper
Estonia: A small country in Northern Europe, with a population of roughly 1.3 million people, and one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.
Eugene Galperin, associate professor of mathematics and freelance conference interpreter, hosted ESU’s Provost’s Colloquium Series: E-government and Digital Society in Estonia.
Galperin worked as an interpreter during his time in Estonia and was introduced to their culture as well as their digital society.
The presentation first touched on Estonia history.
It has the area of 17,505 square miles.
“It’s about the size of New Jersey,” said Galperin.
Estonia the country gained its independence in August of 1991, making most people older than the country itself.
“Some countries invest in military and things like that. The [Estonian] government invested in the internet,” said Galperin.
The Economist called Estonia “the world leader of technology.”
They are even the creators of Skype. The country has gone completely digital.
Every school has a computer and the internet is viewed as a right rather than a privilege for it’s citizens.
All of their personal data, such as taxes, health and employment records are kept in an online database and all of this can be accessed through their ID cards.
“There’s no need for anymore paperwork,” Galperin said.
According to e-estonia.com, the ID cards are embedded with an encryption that became a definitive factor in their digital society. This single card can be used for things such as home banking, health insurance and filing taxes.
Voting is also available digitally.
“You can vote online or in person,” explained Galperin, “and it’s not mandatory.”
Citizens have a ten-day period to vote and can do so from their cell phones. Nearly 95% chose to vote online.
Galperin also explained that when the Estonian parliament introduces a bill, it is sent out to everyone and they can engage in a digital discussion.
With an entire society that runs online the idea of stolen identity, or losing personal files can worry many.
Galperin stated that their data base was hacked only once many years ago by Russia.
“Everyone has equal access [online]. Yes, it is possible [to hack again] but after the first incident they redid they entire security system. Estonian’s say the security is hard to crack and everything is backed up.”
Either way, Estonia seems to be years ahead of other countries. The question is: is America next in going digital?
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