The use of information and communication technology must be promoted in governance and society in general to ensure the development of information society in Estonia.
The influence of information and communication technology (ICT) on the competitiveness of the economies of different countries, social welfare and governance can be hardly over-estimated. According to a research company, McKinsey, the Internet alone contributes 21% to the growth of Gross Domestic Product; 75% of this amount is attributable to traditional sectors. According to the analysis by the Development Foundation, the economic growth attributable to ICT sector in Estonia, may go up to 0.9–1.3%.
The creation of information society services to enhance the competitiveness of enterprises and improving the quality of life of people assumes the availability of a connection to the Internet – in 2011, direct connection to the Internet was available to 93.9% of the Estonian population. Internet use is also pretty common; in 2013, 80% of the population aged from 16 to 74 years used the Internet. Almost 100% of young people use the Internet.
E-governance and e-services
The development of e-governance and e-services in Estonia is also remarkable. Estonia has a unique system for the use of electronic ID and, therefore, it is possible to enjoy an almost paper-free administration process. For example, one can establish a company in approximately 20 minutes, without ever leaving home.
Both citizens and entrepreneurs state that public e-services will help them to save both time and money and, in general, people are happy with the public services. In 2012, 76% of entrepreneurs and 67% of regular citizens expressed their satisfaction with the e-services.
State information systems
Development of the state information system has been the biggest strength of the current national ICT policy. The ground rules of the Estonian information policy – dispersed service-based architecture, suitable security of data and data exchange, online features, focus on e-services and the use of strong authentication measures – have been observed to achieve this result.
State information system services include the X-road, public key infrastructure and e-ID, document exchange centre and the information gateway eesti.ee.
The image of Estonia as an e-state
The current success has been considerably supported by standing for a free and open Internet both in Estonia and internationally. According to a Freedom House review, Estonia ranks among the first in freedom and openness of the Internet: in 2010-2012, we held the title of the country with the most free Internet in the world and in 2013 we were placed second after Iceland.
Both public and private sector solutions have won international attention and provided the basis for the image of Estonia as an excellent e-state. The reputation of e-state is important for our ICT-companies in foreign markets and this has given Estonia the position of being a credible partner and highly valued contributors in the matters of information society and ICT development.
- Estonia's Digital Ideology »
The information society policy of the Republic of Estonia is shaped and co-ordinated by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.
Both the provision and use of electronic communication services are developing very fast – today, we have 390,000 users of mobile data communication.
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Information society services
The purpose for the development of public services is to create a virtual service provision environment that is as comfortable for citizens as possible.
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From document management to info management
The development of administration and document management is more and more closely related to the improvement of public services, which should become much more effective and obtain better quality.
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Cyber security must ensure the uninterrupted provision and reliability of public services.
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IT skills and knowledge
The basic information and communication technology skills are important for both the public and private sector and the state plans to invest considerably into IT education.
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Digital Agenda 2020 for Estonia
In November 2013, the Government approved the Digital Agenda 2020 for Estonia, which will be used to establish a well-working state information and communication technology environment.
Four goals have been established to support the development of Estonian information society:
- ICT infrastructure that supports economic growth, the development of the state and welfare of the population
- Larger number of jobs with higher added value, improved international competitiveness and higher quality of life
- Smarter governance
- Enhanced awareness of Estonia as an e-state all over the world
- Digital Agenda 2020 »Plans for ICT environment
The development plan is supposed to help Estonia to achieve the strategic goals laid out in the competitiveness agenda, Estonia 2020, and the sustainable development strategy, Sustainable Estonia 21:
- Improving the competitiveness of the economy
- Improving the welfare of people
- Contributing to more effective governance
The digital agenda sets out the development activities to be implemented over the next seven years:
- The construction of ultra fast basic Internet network will be completed – at the moment, one third of the planned 6,500 km basic network is finished. By 2020, the basic network will be finished and everyone in Estonia will be able to use fast Internet.
- The Nordic E-governance Basic Infrastructures Innovation Institute will be established at the initiative of Estonia. This is intended to be an international development centre, aiming at joint development of X-Road, digital signature and other components of the basic infrastructure.
- By 2020, 20% of the employment age population of the European Union will be using digital signature for faster business and handling of personal issues. The implementation of digital signature in the European Union will become one of the main goals of the external activities of Estonia and, where appropriate, also the issue to be pursued by Estonia in 2018, while holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
- Coping with increasing data volumes and loss of privacy resulting from extensive interbase cross-usage of data will be made easier by taking control over the data usage. Conditions will be established to allow people to be always aware of who, when and for what purpose their date is being used and to marshal the use.
- To avoid getting stuck in old technologies, a reform will be introduced to reform the public e-services and support IT solutions. Estonia’s public e-services must be modernised and meet uniform quality requirements. In addition, the “legacy” principle will be adopted, which means that in public sector, IT solutions of material importance must never be older than 13 years.
- The state owns huge quantities of data; however, these are not used enough to adopt better political decisions and to offer better services. Over the years to come, the public sector’s capacity to absorb analytical solutions will be considerably improved.
- Estonia will start to offer its secure and convenient services to the citizens of other countries. Virtual or e-residence will be launched – Estonia will start to issue electronic identity, in the form of digital ID, to non-residents; the services will be aiming for a position similar to that held by Swiss banking.
- The “Data Embassy” concept will be implemented. This means secure storage of digital copies of registration information and records important for the state in virtual embassies that are located in other countries. As a result of the project, Estonia will be able to ensure the running of the country, using “cloud technology” and regardless of whether Estonia’s territorial integrity can be ensured or not; this concept is also valuable in case of many other hazards.
- Estonia will strengthen its position as the think tank of information society to continue the dissemination of e-governance experiences and stand for the freedom of the Internet and the protection of privacy. A global information society think tank will be established in Estonia to achieve this goal.
- The existence of a competent and innovative provider or competitive ICT sector is important for both the development of public sector IT solutions and economic development. In 2020, about 50% more people than in 2013 will be working in the ICT sector. For that purpose, we will contribute to enhancing the popularity of IT specialities within the framework of a life-long learning programme and improving the quality of the doctoral degree studies of these specialities.
Information Society Council and co-operation networks
The development of information society and implementation of the digital agenda is managed by a Council co-ordinated by the Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications.
The Information Society Council consists of the representatives of governmental authorities and key private and third sector organisations involved in the development of information society and implementation of the digital agenda.
Thematic or task-based working groups and networks, for example, the document administration council and interoperability expert group, will be used to co-ordinate the implementation of the digital agenda; the network of IT managers of governmental authorities also play an important role.
The digital agenda provides for the launching of the vision network and initiation of intra-ministerial co-operation group. The purpose of these units is to ensure stronger links between the ICT policy and other national policies that influence the development of the information society (e.g. entrepreneurship and education policy).
Apart from the forms of co-operation listed above, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications also participates in the work of the work-groups of the Information Technology and Telecommunication Association and the e-governance Academy.
Funding from the European Union Structural Funds amount to 85% of the financing used for information society development.
In 2007–2013, the development of the information society will be supported with 62.6 million euros.
In 2014–2020, a contribution will mainly be made to the implementation of the digital agenda; more than 200 million euros has been allocated for that purpose, including the EU funds and own contribution.
Sample contract for sourcing software development with public tenders
A group of larger public sector organisations holding public tenders for IT services together with companies from the Estonian Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications (ITL) developed a sample contract for sourcing software development with public tenders.
The goal of this contract is for the public sector to become a smarter customer and take more responsibility with an order, also to increase the quality of software development sourced with public tenders and develop public and private sector co-operation.
Sample contract was developed by the representatives of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, ITL, IT and Development Centre at the Ministry of the Interior, Centre of Registers and Information Systems, Information Technology Centre at the Ministry of Finance and law firm GLIMSTEDT.