With a mandate simply ‘to dream’—the Estonian Government’s Chief Information Officer Taavi Kotka has the dream job.

24 September 2015

Taavi led fascinating, frank and illuminating conversation about Estonia's leading e-government and digital public services during a presentation to the Department of Communications and the Arts in a flying visit to Australia.

Armed with his computer science and software start-up experience, Kotka has the resources and backing of Estonia to transform digital services in their country and beyond. His dream for Estonia's e-government services translates into six changes for service delivery:

  • Trust your engineers. Politics might guide where to build your bridge. But engineers know how to build the best bridge.
  • Everyone needs digital ID. A unique digital identifier for each person is the bedrock for all information sharing and service delivery. EU courts recognise digitally signed documents just as they recognise physically signed documents.
  • Everyone needs fast internet. Most service experiences should be shorter than the time to boil an egg. Even a complex task, like starting a company, can be completed in 18 minutes. Slow internet is not an option.
  • Everything needs to be connected. Estonia now has a 'once only' policy for information gathering. No citizen should have to provide a piece of information to the government more than once.
  • A key enabler is trust. Every Estonian can check what data is held about them and what is has been used for. Inappropriate uses of data are punished by severe penalties. What matters is control of data, not confidentiality.
  • No legacy systems. In the interests of constant improvement, no system can be older than 13 years old. Even though Estonian's e-health system is world leading. It is being replaced because it was introduced in 2004, when mobile devices were rare.

Kotka also spoke about e-residencies. The services that allow people to participate in Estonia are available online. To be an Estonian, you don't have to physically be in Estonia. This is the idea behind e-residencies. Currently Estonia has granted over 4,600 e-residencies granted, with a further 600 applications in process and 20,000 people on a waiting list. Finland, Russia and Italy are top three geographic locations for e-Estonians.

Please note captions and a transcript are still to come for the video and will be provided as soon as they are available.

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