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"The Estonian e-government infrastructure and its success rest on two main pillars, both introduced in 2001, which essentially create digital access to state and digital citizens: the data infrastructure x-road and a compulsory national digital ID. X-road is an interoperability platform for existing decentralised databases and a data exchange layer that can be used by public and private sector actors. It is independent of platforms and architectures and provides secure interoperability for data exchanges and identification of trusted actors in digital service delivery. The digital ID makes it possible for citizens to be identified digitally and to use digital signatures. Together, x-road and the digital ID make it possible to digitally sign any contract, access essentially any public service, order prescriptions, file taxes, vote and so forth." (


1. 2019


"More than 2,300 public and private services use x-road, and the digital signature has been used almost 350 million times by Estonia’s population of 1.3 million. The digital ID penetration is close to 100%; 30% of votes are cast digitally (in both local and national elections); almost all personal income tax declarations and medical prescriptions are done online, and most medical records held by hospital and family doctors are accessible online. The Estonian government claims that its digital infrastructure has led to annual savings of about 2% of GDP and more than 800 years in working time for the public and private sectors.

According to the EU’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), in 2017 Estonia was the leading nation in Europe in digital public services, although in 2018 it dropped to second place. However, in most other e-government rankings Estonia‘s digital success is less evident. In DESI’s overall ranking, Estonia is in ninth position for 2018 and, according to the UN’s 2018 e-government survey, it is ranked only 16th globally. This cognitive dissonance — high praise and leadership position in global news outlets versus relatively middling rankings in overall digital transformation indexes (for more discussion, see Drechsler’s contribution in this new book) — reflects the nature of Estonia’s digital success: Estonia is ranked high for its digital public service infrastructure, which is universally available and mandatory, and an integral backbone of public service delivery. Estonia’s digital success, however, is not about other digital offerings such as digital democracy, citizen engagement or digitally transforming public services such as the welfare state." (

2. 2007

"Estonia is surely the most tech-advanced country in Europe, they in fact call it E-stonia. Some facts: Population: 1.35M Internet usage: 56% Internet banking: 88% Mobile penetration: >100%. 1000+ Free Internet Access points. PKI penetration: >80%. Biggest national eID card roll-out in Europe. With your eID card you get an email address such as [email protected] and a certificate for digital signature. You can login in banks with E-id card given by the state. You pay taxes online as well. And you can vote in election. They are rolling out the Mobile-ID, i.e. your ID is your mobile. With an ID card, you also have an OpenID and the state is your OpenID provider." [1]


Evaluating Success


"The specific nature of Estonia’s digital achievement and at the same time disconnect between technological infrastructure and degree of digital penetration is often overlooked in international coverage. As Estonia’s digital government came to be focused on the x-road, Estonia has effectively created its own legacy system — a move that the initial thinkers wanted to avoid. Indeed, in the early 1990s, the focus was as much on secure digital infrastructure as it was on advancing societal goals through digital means. Yet, in particular throughout the 2000s as Estonia blazed through an economic boom that created increasing inequalities in its wake, the evolution of digital government seems to stalled.

In some ways, Estonia’s digital government has been caught up in its own success: in 2014 Estonian introduced e-residency programme that opens some digital public services (establishing a company, paying taxes) globally. While more than 40,000 e-residents have signed up — most recently, the pope was gifted e-residency — and more than 4,000 companies have been created by e-residents, the programme has also faced domestic criticism as a something of a show-off that enables money laundering. (Similarly to India’s Aadhar, Estonia’s digital infrastructure faced constitutional court challenges that were related to e-voting; as in India, Estonian court ‘sided’ with digital solutions.)

While many digital services have brought efficiency gains to citizens and businesses in Estonia, citizen satisfaction with crucial services such as healthcare and education has remained low. As an example, according to OECD rankings in 2014, Estonia ranked fifth from bottom in satisfaction with health services (in 2007 it listed the lowest) and second from bottom in education system satisfaction (in 2007 it ranked third lowest). Further, Estonia performs poorly on some critical social indicators. For example, in 2016 it had the highest gender pay gap in Europe and a higher than EU average Gini index. While citizen satisfaction is not the only measure of the quality of public services — and digital infrastructure is only one component in the provision of sophisticated services such as health and education — it is indicative that there is a little-measured improvement in the provision of core public services." (

More information


Estonia is giving an OpenID to each citizen


12.9.2007 Cafe Babel Dossier on Talinn & Estonia: After centuries of foreign rule, Estonians sang for revolution twenty years ago and found their freedom. The never-resting city emerges as a wireless boomtown – the 'Baltic tiger'. But some fall by the wayside

Nato Cyberwarfare Headquarters

So highly regarded is Estonia's online technology and security savvy that NATO's new cyber-warfare center will be based there.

excerpt from Estonia: Cyber Superpower

article BBC , may 15 2008 :

Seven Nato nations have backed a new cyber defence centre in Estonia, which last year blamed Russia for weeks of attacks on its internet structure.

excerpt from Estonian Cyber Defence Hub set up

Articles on Web War 1

Estonia Survives Internet`s First Cyberwar

" at 11 PM May 8 – midnight Moscow time -- Estonia saw Internet traffic spike over four million packets per second, a two hundred fold increase over normal levels for that time of night. Attackers went for bank sites, newspapers, foreign ministry sites, and government-connected sites. " link

Estonian Websites Under Attack (May 10 & 17, 2007)

Web sites throughout Estonia have been under attack for the past three weeks. Riots and protests broke out on April 27 when Estonia removed a Soviet war memorial statue in the capital city of Tallinn. Ethnic Russians protested the statue's removal. Russia is suspected of being behind the attacks, but no accusations have been made. The distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks have hit across the board at government web sites as well as web sites of newspapers, banks and businesses. NATO has sent cyber terrorism experts to Tallinn to help the country improve its cyber defenses.

May 10th 2007 The Economist : A cyber-riot

May 17, 2007 The Guardian : Russia accused of unleashing cyberwar to disable Estonia

21.08.2007 Wired.Com : Hackers Take Down the Most Wired Country in Europe "The attacks were aimed at the essential electronic infrastructure of the Republic of Estonia," Aaviksoo tells me later. "All major commercial banks, telcos, media outlets, and name servers — the phone books of the Internet — felt the impact, and this affected the majority of the Estonian population. This was the first time that a botnet threatened the national security of an entire nation."

Welcome to Web War one.

14 May 2007 , Blog Article

RUSSIA VS. ESTONIA: 21st Century State vs. State Conflict

What does "guerrilla" war between interdependent states look like in the 21st Century? Very much like the war now going on between Estonia and Russia. Russia is using the removal of a statue commemorating Russian war dead from Tallinn (the capital of Estonia) as a pretext to launch an information/economic war against Estonia in order to destabilize the state (the likely real reason is that Estonia is blocking the construction of a Baltic pipeline to Germany).


Remember: Vulnerability to disruption accelerates with size while the capacity to disrupt (using these methods) is scale-free (based on self-replicating computer resources and thereby within the budget of any state, no matter how small).