Politicians in Estonia, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, began to realize how computers could positively impact a country with a very small workforce and a general lack of physical infrastructure. For the next twenty years, Estonia concentrated on using the internet to transform its government, economy, and society in general. Today, Estonians can do just about anything electronically. Citizens can pay for bus tickets and parking via text, vote in elections from a laptop, or even sign legal documents from a smart phone.
In Estonia, free Wi-Fi has been available virtually everywhere for the last decade. Estonia’s philosophy about the internet has been and continues to be that all citizens should have public access to the internet. Because of this, it is not surprising that doctors only issue prescriptions online and that 94% of tax returns in the previous year were done electronically. It is suggested that this focus on the internet and computers is a result of the majority of Estonians most commonly identifying themselves as Nordic, rather than Slavic or eastern European. Because of this, Estonia used tech-savvy Scandinavia as a model and as a source of inspiration for its technological aspirations.
Estonia introduced an ID card in 2002 that enables citizens to vote online, transfer money, pay for public transport, and much more by simply inserting the card into a computer. The card is blank for security reasons, and access to the database is only given if the correct code is inputted. Those with an ID card are able to see who accesses their information, and are able to challenge any suspicious or unusual activity. Many support the ID card not only because of its convenience but also because it allows citizens to keep an eye on the government.
Just two decades after breaking free from the Soviet Union, Estonia is on its feet and moving forward. Estonia is a great example of how a nation can bounce back from a crisis by being innovative and embracing technology.