“E-Government: Estonia’s Vision” – Analysis


By Mairi Maenniste

Living in world 3.0 sounds like an idea from spy ficton but it is also a very realistic term in international security. July 22, 2011 was a day of tragedy in Norway when Anders Breivik murdered 77 people, an event that made the need for better planning abundantly clear in cyber security.

Estonia as „the e-state that became a real-time mobile e-country in the Cloud” will implement its capacities in information and communications technology (ICT) field in the EU’s IT Agency in Tallinn. The agency will manage the database for asylum application identification (EURODAC), the Visa Information System (VIS) and the second-generation Schengen Information System (SIS II), which are all essential instruments in the implementation of EU asylum, migration and border management policies. At a later stage, after gradually building up its expertise, the Agency will develop into a centre of excellence for the development and operational management of other future systems in this policy area. The Agency is set up in the form of an independent European body (Regulatory Agency).

The core task of the Agency is to keep the IT systems functioning 24/7, ensuring the continuous, uninterrupted exchange of data among national authorities. The Agency is also responsible for adopting and implementing security measures, organising training for IT experts as well as reporting and publishing statistics and monitoring research activities. The Agency needs to maintain the complete separation of data betweem the three systems and ensure that security and data protection requirements are fully met. Together, FRONTEX, Europol, CEPOL, EMCDDA and EASO will provide information and advice, prepare and take decisions, oversee operations and support policy making.

While the IT Agency’s structural part has an important role in providing integrated unity in the EU, it is outstandingly important to secure it against cyber attacks. For example, Russian hackers played a part in denial of service attacks on Estonia. This probably is not comparable to what is happening now between USA and China, but may be a cautionary example in future EU- Russia relations.

E-governance is taking an especially active role in governance monitoring processess in Estonia since 2012. This could be considered the era of Estonian Social Awakening after former MP Silver Meikar was thrown out of the Reform party because of his public confession to having been unwillingly part of alleged corruption the Minister of Justice resigned from his position in December 2012. Good practice, for example, is the Open Government Model which was started by Liia Hänni, astrophysican and Director of E-Democracy in Estonia. These activities will be continued until early summer 2013.

The Estonian Government’s strategy vision is to develop from „Electronic-governance to Information-governance” and is keen to take a direct e-governance development approach. To achieve this goal the programm predicts 33 different activities starting from building up an excellent, fast internet infrastructure within the EstWin project framework and concluding with Estonia’s reputation as initiatior and its successful e-governance implementation.

The ICT „Vision Conference” held in December 2012 produced the following ideas: Estonia will be a virtual state where citizens can select government organs and decide to whom they will pay taxes, foreign residents may become Estonian virtual residents without needing to live here physically but using e-states services. Estonian ICT will be independent from physical borders due to cloud-, mobile- etc technology applications which guarantee the management of day-to-day business globally.

A final reflection on the cyber security vision voiced by the Head of International Cooperation at the Estonian Information System’s Authority Luukas K. Ilves goes as follows: “Estonia has fairly strong rule of law within its own cyberspace – cyber criminals operating in Estonia are generally apprehended and charged. Perhaps the most challenging part of cybersecurity is aligning your defensive activities with the objects you are trying to defend. In Estonia’s case, this means defending our e-way of life and the digital processes that underly it”.

Mairi Maenniste

Student of International Relations and Youth Affairs at Tallinn University in Estonia. Attended schools in Estonia (Valga Humanitarian Gymnasium), in Austria (University of Vienna) and in Finland (Tampere University).

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