Estonia, a small Baltic European nation with a population of 1.3 million, holds one of the highest echelons in technological innovations and digital supremacy among all the countries in the world. The coronavirus pandemic forced people to make use of digital platforms for more than just social interactions and connectivity. As elite countries like the US and the UK pulverize under the pressure to efficiently run day-to-day workings of the nation digitally, the situation in Estonia remains unchanged for the most part.
On February 27th, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the country. Case numbers surged after a small island off its coast, Saaremaa, became a hot-spot for the virus. After which, the Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas declared a state of emergency lockdown, effective from March 13th. Public gathering was banned (including sports and cultural events); schools and universities were closed. However, lockdown did not disrupt the normalcy of living in Estonia due to its impeccable digital synergy.
In 2016, Wired described Estonia as “the world’s most digitally advanced society“. The country is widely praised for IT advancements in its private and public sectors. As coronavirus cases emerged in the country, Garage48 (an Estonian start-up company) and the Ministry of Economic Affairs kick-started a virtual hackathon called “Hack-the-crisis”.
This innovative platform was launched to deploy digital solutions for citizens during and after the crisis. Four digital solutions developed have already been implemented in Estonia: KoroonaKaart – to monitor the statistical changes in cases, Suve – an interactive chat-bot responding to citizens’ questions, Koroonatest – an online questionnaire for medical self-assessment of users, and COVID-Help – which connects elderly people in need of special assistance with a volunteer.
Estonia launched a high-tech national ID system in 2002, which lets the citizens pay taxes, vote, do banking, and access their health care records online. The digital system started during the pre-coronavirus life, simplified contact-tracing for hospital and medical officials now amidst the global health emergency. Estonia’s digitization was equipped to streamline the daily workings of its citizens even in the middle of an unprecedented lockdown, something that the majority of the countries in the world lack. “[In Estonia], you can do everything online with the government, except for getting married, getting divorced, and doing a transfer of property,” said Former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
It became the world’s first digital republic. In 2005, Estonia became the first country in the world to adopt online voting through i-Voting. The government securely runs e-Cabinet and for its business since the early 2000s, e-Justice system for cheap and faster court proceedings. The country is currently testing digital immunity passport from coronavirus for workplaces.
Estonia gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. As a poor and marginalized country, Estonian officials took a digital approach to fast-track modernization in a cost-effective way. The plan to create a digitized society began in 1994. And in the past twenty six years, Estonia continues to timely upgrade its technological infrastructure.
Featured Image Via Canva