President of Estonia: How Do We Improve Security and E-governance?

Sander Nõmmik
Author Sander Nõmmik

The President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, recently appeared in a video released by the World Economic Forum, in which he expressed his strong disapproval of digital backdoors and explained how Estonia improves e-governance and ensures its security.

In the video, President Ilves explains that apart from Estonia being one of the biggest champions of the Digital Single Market in Europe, a recent study by the European Union also places Estonia in first place when it comes to e-governance in Europe.

President Ilves explains how Estonian citizens have access to an electronic ID, which offers universal use and allows citizens to have a legally binding signature. Among others, this system enables services such as electronic prescriptions.

The other side of all of this is transparency. President Ilves explains that the system used in Estonia is extremely trust based. “People believe that they are secure“, President Ilves said.

This all leads to security. President Ilves states that the trust-based system is one of the reasons why he is completely against backdoors. He adds: “Even if there is a belief that there is a backdoor, let alone if a political leader says «Ohh, it’s just to catch terrorists», the knowledge that someone can use a backdoor to access your data will say to people that [the system] is not secure”.

President Ilves highlights the problem that, in this entire field, we’re still using solutions that have their roots back in the 70’s and 80’s. He says that having one big server with all of the data unencrypted is not a solution.

The solution, in his opinion, is to instead have a two-factor authentication system, where there is either a chip or a fingerprint in conjunction with the architecture which will bring these two approaches together.

“Unless we have a clear understanding, of what one needs to do to have security online, we will not move ahead with e-governance”, Ilves said in order to highlight the importance of online security.