{Replica} Innovation in Estonia in Response to the Ukraine Crisis: Land in the Cloud Without Territory?

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Disclosure & Image Rights: Enterprise Estonia supported us by taking over the travel costs to the ICT-Week in Talinn. Picture material created with a free provided camera of our sponsor Olympus. The Tallink Group supported us by taking over the travel expenses to the ICT-Week in Talinn. Picture material created with a free provided camera of our sponsor Olympus. ,

10 years after the EU eastward enlargement, I was to ICT Week in Estonia last week. There, they follow the current events in Ukraine with a certain fear - after all, Estonia was once a Soviet republic and borders directly with Russia. One possible solution: Estonian eGovernment could also survive in the event of occupation in the cloud - an idea with far-reaching consequences.

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Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisher, German Top20 blogger and Consultant for HR communication.


How does Estonia promote ICT?


I met Taavi Kotka, Deputy Secretary General - ICT at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications for Estonia, at 25.04.2014 following his speech at Nordic Digital Agendas Day as part of the Estonian ICT Week.

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My video interview therefore revolves around the investments and funding that Estonia intends to put into the ICT sector - and you can see by the very fact that Estonia wants to invest 200 million extra here over the next seven years, just how important the government is this area is.

10 Years of EU Eastern Enlargement - How Estonia overtakes us in IT


And while 10-old EU eastward expansion eg in the Süddeutschen the stereotype of the poor East is being developed, ideas are being developed in Estonia that go beyond the level of innovation imaginable in Germany.

It is well-known that in Estonia, all government services run electronically, including elections, contracts, tax returns and even parents-teacher communication in schools. Less is the measure: Only a few things like marriages and divorces can not yet be carried out electronically.

The first country in the cloud?


The latest ideas from Estonia are no wonder: Estonia is to become the first country in the cloud worldwide. And that's not as crazy as it sounds at first. Estonia has already deposited its electronic data in embassies abroad.

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So far, Kotka said in an interview with the magazine "Life in Estonia" published by Enterprise Estonia, the embassies were not designed for such a large amount of data, and the data were mainly kept to function on the territory of the Estonian state. That is exactly what is about to change.

How is the cloud to work?


For this purpose, Kotka continues to develop a network of data messages in the interview: In friendly states data centers should be installed with the same rules as in real messages. All the data necessary for the function of the state should be stored there.

Kotka sees advantages for data security. If a cyberattack is to be carried out in Estonia, Estonia could continue to act as a state.

Land without territory?


But Kotka goes one step further. Even with a territorial attack on Estonia, the cloud could bring significant advantages. So he says in the interview:

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Estonians could live in Finland or London, be deported to Siberia or whatever: we could still elect our parliament, collect taxes etc. Businesses would continue to operate, documents would be exchanged, addresses could continually be changed in registers and new citizens would be born … The capacity to support the existence of our state from the cloud would lead to a situation where - considering the recent events in Crimea - it would be much more complicated (ie expensive) to occupy Estonia. There would be no point in conquering the country with tanks, as the state would continue to function from the cloud.

Everyone can soon use the public services


From the country without territory it is also not far to another idea, which was decided in Estonia just before last week: the electronic ID card also for non-Estonians to introduce. This also allows people who are not Estonian citizens to use the Estonian e-services such as account management, digital signatures or the possibility to start a business.

Yes, Taavi Kotka even goes so far as to allow people to buy citizenship rights in different countries. When I asked whether this does not lead to better-off financial exploitation of these freedoms, he replies evasively: Even with the Internet, the risks were first seen, but today we see above all the benefits ...

eGovernment: Unimaginable for Germany


This idea is pretty unimaginable for German standards, but it is only logical for Estonians: Because there you can already do pretty much everything online, such as parliamentary elections, contracts, company foundations and cabinet meetings.

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What such an e-service looks like was explained to me by Tiit Anmann, CEO of the Estonian company signwise, for another video using the example of the electronic signature, with which contracts and other documents can be signed in Estonia in just a few minutes. Anmann also gives an insight into the eServices. provided by the Estonian state:

Is that safe?


Critics will object that such a country in the cloud is much more vulnerable to cyber attacks than other countries. The Estonians, however, are very keen on their IT security, but admit that the perfectly secure IT system does not exist, of course. However, questions about possible misuse of the system and security leaks are also often answered with general places: That even the security-conscious Germans would use Google & Facebook, for example. Or that the greatest element of uncertainty was people in the form of internal employees like Edward Snowden, who had managed to infiltrate the NSA's security system.

I also spoke to Andrus Järg, General Manager of Skype Estonia, who even considers clousing systems to be particularly secure, about the security of the cloud. For people who ask about the risks, he therefore has a simple answer: “It is natural that people are afraid of new developments. It was the same with the computer - and that is normal today. It will be the same with cloud computing. ”It sounds good. One can only hope that he is right.

Government in Trial and Error Procedure


In fact, Estonia has a very different relationship to innovation: Kotka said in his speech at the ICT Week that a government can sometimes make mistakes and learn in trial and error.

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And the best government, anyway, is the one you do not see and which operates efficiently in the background.

Development with far-reaching consequences


The developments in Estonia may be more far-reaching than many realize: in good terms, one could say: Who really needs fixed borders with such innovative ideas? And could not this idea also make wars superfluous - eg if the Russians in Ukraine could still live "virtually" in Russia by means of eGovernment?

Conversely, one must ask oneself: What happens to the people who are subjected to violence in the event of a military attack? Is the fact that the government in the cloud then somewhere further exists, not only to the mere theory?

Some exciting facts about Estonia


  • Estonia does not have its own IT minister. Instead, each ministry has its own IT shares. The focus is to establish IT know-how in various fields.
  • The e-government in this form has existed since the year 2000, when the government decided to exist paperless. Since then, cabinet meetings have only been 45 minutes instead of 4 hours.
  • The e-government was introduced for ecological reasons, but also from time savings. Moreover, it is cheaper. This also favors innovations from mainly smaller companies. The success of Skype is particularly inspiring.
  • 99,8% of banktransfers electronically emit, 95% of tax declarations and 2013 25% of parliamentary elections. 95 of medicine is prescribed and purchased via eHealth, the electronic system to which physicians and pharmacists have access.
  • There are not many countries that can measure IT technical with Estonia, says Tavi Kotka. Denmark, Singapore or the UK.
  • 20% of the Estonians do not use a computer, 5% will never get online, says Tavi Kotka.
  • 200 Euro wants to spend Estonia on its IT structure over the next seven years. Of these, half will be spent on service development, one third on communication structure and one sixth in Further education invested in IT. Above all, higher-level skills such as programming are promoted. Most of the money is invested in teacher training. Original sound, Tavi Kotka: "Coding and programming skills are becoming increasingly important."
  • Estonia sees no other way than an individual ID, if the state system should function efficiently in the background. One does not understand why, for example, Germany is still opposed to it.
  • With its e-government, Estonia wants to be a showcase for Europe and to promote Europe and is in constant exchange, especially with neighbors like Finland, Denmark and Norway. You can not see the EU as a mobile phone cap, but you recognize that you have to compromise. The Estonians think that the EU could make more - for example, data exchange between countries, a sort of crossborder digital governance. Developments such as the digital signature will also be emphasized at the European level.
  • The data is not already stored on a large server, but each system provides its own data (Distributed Cloud). The secret of efficiency is to network the data. This makes the system safer, since you can only attack parts, but not the whole system at once.

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