E-government in Estonia and what we could learn from them

Welcome to Hashtag Trending, the Weekend Edition. I’m your host, Jim Love.

Today, we are going to look at how one country became a leader in terms of the transformation of it’s economy and it’s government. A country that leads in terms of per capita investment. And that country is:


Who? Don’t be shocked.

I’m going to bet that 98% of Canadians couldn’t find it on a map. BTW, it’s just south of Finland in case you were interested.

If you didn’t know, it’s nothing shameful. Estonia is a tiny country, population in 2021 was 1.3 million. In comparison to Canada and our 40 million people , it’s super tiny. In fact, it’s smaller than a number of Canadian cities. It’s smaller than Calgary in terms of population.

In terms of physical size it’s half the size of the island part of Newfoundland. It’s not that much bigger than Vancouver Island.

It’s tiny.

So why should you even know about Estonia? Why should you even think about it?

Because in terms of its transition to a digital economy, it’s a giant.

Estonia only got its independence from the Soviet Union 30 years ago. In the years that followed it’s accomplished an astonishing transformation.

Today, Estonia has more startups per capita than any European country. It leads Europe in terms of capital investment on a per capita basis. No wonder Estonians have founded 10 “unicorns” – startups that have grown to over 1 billion dollars in value. That’s the most per capita of any country in Europe and frankly, it on a per capita basis, it blows Canada out of the water. Canada, with more than 30 times the population of Estonia has 21.

That focus on entrepreneurship and transforming to a digital economy has given Estonia leadership in a number of other areas.

Estonia hosts both the cybersecurity centre of NATO and the IT-agency of the European Union.

And then there’s digital government. Hold onto to you seat.

99% of people use Internet banking services.
95% complete their income tax return over the Internet
While many countries dither about digital ID, Estonia has it
That one ID

– allows you to travel within the EU
– it’s your health insurance card
– gives proof of identification when logging into bank accounts
– certifies your digital signatures
– allows you to vote online
– you can check medical records, submit tax claims and more
– to use the e-Prescription service

They leave us in the dust in terms of digital government. How did I find out about this?

I’ve been fortunate enough to be a member of the Digital Governance Council, started by Jim Balsillie to advance Canada’s role in digital standards and governance. The Council had a delegation from Estonia as our guests at a recent meeting.

I have to say that I found their presentation inspiring in terms of what is possible and how they showed that governments can not only be more efficient but in how they can serve their citizens better by creating a great digital experience.

I have to say, not only have they created a model for digital government – but they are also incredibly generous in sharing what they have done. As their site at e-estonia.com says.

“We have built a digital society and we can show you how.”

So I had to take them up on it – and my guest today from half way around the world is Anett Numa, Head of Government Relations and Communications for Estonia. Welcome Anett.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jim Love
Jim Love
I've been in IT and business for over 30 years. I worked my way up, literally from the mail room and I've done every job from mail clerk to CEO. Today I'm CIO and Chief Digital Officer of IT World Canada - Canada's leader in ICT publishing and digital marketing.

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