Episode 59: How Estonia Fully Digitized its Government Services (and You Can Too)

Slim Sikkut
Siim Sikkut03/30/2022

In this episode of #shifthappens, we sit down with Siim Sikkut to talk about Estonia's impressive digitization of government services. Estonia, a small country in Northern Europe, is often considered one of the most advanced digital societies in the world. The country has digitized almost all government services and made them accessible to citizens through a single online platform.

To begin, Sikkut explains that Estonia's successful digitization of government services was driven by the need to improve efficiency and reduce corruption in the aftermath of the Soviet occupation. The country decided to start from scratch and build a digital infrastructure that would allow citizens to interact with government services in a secure and efficient way.

Sikkut goes on to explain the technological foundation that underpins Estonia's digital government services. The country uses a secure digital identity system called the Estonian ID card, which allows citizens to access government services online. The ID card is equipped with a microchip that stores the citizen's personal information and digital signature, which can be used to sign documents and authenticate transactions.

As a result, there are many benefits to the rapid digitalization Estonia’s government services. The country has been able to significantly reduce bureaucratic red tape, increase efficiency, and save time and money for citizens and businesses alike. For example, citizens can complete their tax returns online in just a few minutes, and companies can register a new business in less than 15 minutes.

Sikkut also explains that Estonia's digital government services have helped to increase transparency and reduce corruption. By digitizing government services, the country has been able to reduce the number of intermediaries and create a more streamlined and transparent system. The success of Estonia's digital government services is not just due to technology, but also to the design of the service. The system was designed to be user-centric, which means that it is easy to use and accessible to all citizens, regardless of their technical ability.

Looking ahead to the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in Estonia's digital government services, Sikkut explains AI is not a necessary part of digital government services, but it can certainly enhance the user experience and improve efficiency. For example, AI could be used to automate certain processes and make government services even more efficient.

While there are many benefits to digitizing government services, it also comes with some challenges. Sikkut shares one of the biggest challenges is ensuring the security and privacy of citizen data. Estonia has implemented strong security measures to protect citizen data, but as with any digital system, there is always a risk of cyberattacks.

Overall, this episode of #shifthappens provides a fascinating insight into the world of digital government services. Estonia's success in digitizing government services is a testament to the power of technology to improve efficiency and reduce bureaucracy. While challenges remain, there is no doubt that other countries can learn from Estonia's experience and begin to digitize their own government services.

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