Estonian experience to lead global e-governance cooperation

Sander Nõmmik
Author Sander Nõmmik

Estonia becomes the lead architect in global cooperation for creating digital building blocks for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We have long hoped that digitalisation will support achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations: eliminate poverty, erase hunger, provide quality education, etc. Global development agencies have invested billions of dollars in innovative digital technologies for that effect. Despite this significant investment, we have not seen the achievement of the scale we were hoping for.

Fragmentation and duplication

Why? Research has shown that one of the key obstacles in realising the full benefits of ICT is siloed planning and decision making, resulting in significant fragmentation and duplication of efforts. This makes it difficult for governments to understand where everyday products could be used and disincentivise technology providers from building these products, as the market size seems too small.

UN agencies are joining up with Estonia to apply the whole-of-government approach to digital investments to address this.

Estonia has built a holistic digital society

„Estonia has long-term experience in building a holistic digital society, from the technological standing point to putting in place proper legislation,” Raul Siem, Estonian Minister of Foreign Trade and Information Technology, told at the signing ceremony of the joint declaration of cooperation. “And we are open to sharing our expertise in digital transformation.“

International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL), Estonia, and Germany signed a joint declaration of intent to establish a global high-level cooperation framework to assist countries in learning and to implement scalable digital services and applications in a cost-efficient, accelerated and integrated manner.

Global standards for e-governance are coming

Unlike in many other fields, there are no standards for e-governance. This cooperation aims to provide them globally, making them available for countries regardless of their economic capabilities. Estonia’s role will be providing the architecture for the building blocks that will form the backbone of any whole-of-government solution and make sure that these blocks function well together.

The first blocks that will be developed are digital identification and authentication, registries, security, information exchange, and payment services. The next step will add modules for government services, such as social security. Building on Estonia’s reliable X-Road, the new system will be based on “x-space” where building blocks can exchange info with each other not linearly (so that if one is blocked, the service is down) but simultaneously.

Shop for e-state solutions

As the investments will be made using public funds, the results will be publicly available for countries. Eventually, this repository will look like an AppStore or Google Play, where governments will be able to shop for the e-state solutions they need.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen and experienced the advantages of having the digital infrastructure and e-governance solutions,” Mr. Siem adds. “We have a clear advantage of having been building the digital state for already 20 years. Today, no-one has that kind of time. Therefore cooperation such as this is important in making digital solutions based on our experience available for all.”