Estonia is one of the most switched on, plugged in and generally tech-savvy nations on the planet. Cutting-edge internet and mobile solutions have caught on here like wildfire, and governments and businesses are constantly rolling out new e-services to make people’s lives easier. Here are a few of the main developments in Estonia’s e-society:
Free Wi-Fi Public wireless internet is available just about everywhere in Estonia, and in most cases it’s free. That means any visitor with a laptop or smart phone can connect in their hotel, or in just about any restaurant or café in city centres, and not worry about paying. At last count, there were 1,140 registered public Wi-Fi hotspots around the country. Wi-Fi is offered on most inter-city buses, city parks and squares, and even at the beach.
ID Cards Estonia’s all-in-one national ID Card, which is held by over 90% of the population, acts as a gateway to a huge variety of secure e-services. This digital chip-and-pin ID card is used for everything from banking and healthcare to electronic voting. It also doubles as bus ticket on public transit and, of course, as a travel document within the EU.
E-Government From paperless cabinet meetings to letting citizens access all their official data online, Estonia has been making huge leaps in the move towards e-government. Also, through its e-Governance Academy, Estonia has shared expertise with 36 other countries in ways to make an e-state work.
M-Parking Estonian drivers have a great way to avoid the hassle of finding the right change when they want to park their cars downtown. Thanks to a system called M-Parking, all drivers have to do is send an sms when they park and another when they leave. The system was developed in Estonia and has been exported to other countries.
Advanced Online Banking Banks in Estonia got in the online services game fairly early, and now as many as 98% of transactions are done online. Using a computer or even a mobile phone, the average customer can check their balance and pay their bills in a flash.
Skype This hugely successful internet telephone service was actually invented right here in Estonia. Many businesses here routinely use Skype in place of traditional land lines, and one hotel even offers Skype phones in some of its guest rooms.
E-Democracy In 2005, Estonia became the first country in the world to offer internet voting in a nationwide election. Using an ID card and any available computer, citizens can vote from home, from their office, or even from abroad if they’re travelling. In more recent elections, about 15% of voters cast their ballots this way.
Digital Prescriptions No more trying to decipher a doctor’s illegible scrawl or worrying about losing a slip of paper. In 2010, a new system was launched to move prescriptions into a central database. Now all a patient has to do is present their ID card at the pharmacy.
E-Tax Board Standing in long queues at tax time is a thing of the past. Thanks to Estonia’s e-Tax Board, citizens now go online, check their pre-filled returns, make changes if necessary and submit the form. The process can take just a couple of minutes. In 2010, 92% of returns were filed this way.
E-School About 67% of schools use this innovative system that lets students access their homework assignments, parents check their children’s grades and communicate with teachers, and teachers plan their lessons more easily. No more skipping school either – parents can see attendance records too.
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