e estonia

e-Estonia, two



access look like inhabitant
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code PIN code signature
digital strategy consultant
precise trip (2) identity card
fill out personal as a result
tax block (2) tax return
extend logbook measure (2)
privacy authority no business
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claim efficient record (3)
cyber estimate vulnerable
fail fail-safe back up (2)
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notary whatever natural disaster
run (3) spring up climate (2)
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kind of transfer independent
fed up function channel (3)
fair (3) provide hide/hid/hidden
set up residency bureaucracy
aspect drive (2) legislation
hope compete drive/drove/driven
expect domain commentary
various point (3) encourage






This is what programmers look like in Estonia: ten-year-old school children are busy writing their own music programs or games.

Markos started programming when he was five, creating software to control many robots.

Markos Isotamm, Ten years old: “When you develop software, you have to be very precise, so the robot does exactly what you want it to.

I want to become the best programmer in Estonia, bigger than Skype.”

Everyone here knows Skype, founded in tiny Estonia and used across the world. The Baltic state’s 1.3 million inhabitants can access the internet practically anywhere at no cost.

In 2000, the state declares it to be a basic human right.

Resident One: “I use digital banking. I use my mobile phone to do whatever I need to do.”

Resident Two: “I’m using digital ID a lot.”

Resident Three: “It’s only a code which is sent to my phone, and then I can add . . . I can enter a PIN code, and then it acts as my digital signature.”

The man behind Estonia’s digital strategy is Siim Sikkut, the government’s IT consultant.

With just one click, he can send his signature, giving his consent that his daughter can go on a school trip.

Using his identity card, he can digitally access his medical records and other personal information.

As a result, it takes him just a few minutes to fill out his tax return . . .

. . .But other people can also see this data if it’s not blocked in advance.

Siim Sikkut, IT Consultant to the Estonian Government: “We provide a privacy measure for people because through logbook, we can see who has been accessing our data files.

So for example, here I can see that say in my health record, my dentist and my family doctor, they can access my file. That’s okay. If I felt that was somebody who I think had no business with my health record, I can make a data protection claim, and we have had a policeman fine or laid off. And there is this fine if they look at data they shouldn’t have.”

He estimates that the state saves around €500 million each year because the authorities can work much more efficiently online.

But this also makes them vulnerable: in 2007, Estonia was subject to a cyber attack. Now they want to provide a fail-safe by backing up their data abroad.

Siim Sikkut, IT Consultant to the Estonian Government: If something should happen in Estonia, for example with digital signing or our government or other systems going down for example, a natural disaster or we have some conflict or whatever.

So basically, our government could still function, our services could still function because we would have the systems and data backed up abroad. We can run them from the foreign server.”

In this climate, one startup is spring up after the next. It took these developers just 18 minutes to set up their company. There was no need to make appointments with the authorities or a notary.

Their company Transferwise offers a cheaper way of transferring money online between various countries.

In 1991, Estonia became independent from the Soviet Union and decided to start afresh.

Lars Trunin, Transferwise Product Developer: “We were kind of fed up with all the bureaucracy and all the hiding of information that we had in the past 70 years before that.

So we wanted fairness in all aspects of doing business and doing you legislation that we have.”

And they don’t even think it’s unfair that the government has extended a new residency rights to foreigners in the hope that they will be encouraged to open an online business in the Estonian domain.

Alvar Lumberg, Transferwise Head of Engineering: “We’re a really small country: there is almost no point whatsoever to build something for the Estonian market alone, which immediately drives you to think globally. And when you think globally, you’re already competing with anybody else in the world.”

And soon these students could be up there with them. In the third grade, they also get to set up their own business.

Markos Isotamm, Ten years old: “I want to create new worlds for Minecraft or develop a war game. Or I’ll start my own YouTube channel and provide commentary on the games in that way.

Almost all these children want to set up an online company. But then, what else would you expect in E-stonia.

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1. Children start learning about computers at a very young age in Estonia. True or false?

2. What is Estonia’s most famous creation?

3. Are Estonians very tech-savvy? Is Estonia a very wired country? What are some examples of things people there can do online?

4. Online services are very efficient, convenient and save money. Is this right or wrong?

5. Is everything about online transactions perfect? Are there any drawbacks or disadvantages? What are some solutions?

6. There is a lot of bureaucracy and red tape in starting and operating an online business in Estonia. Is this correct or incorrect?

7. Should Estonians only work and deal with their domestic market?


A. Did you learn about computers at school? Should children learn about computers in school? If yes, at what age?

B. Are online banking, digital ID and signatures popular among your friends?

C. Do you prefer doing everyone the traditional way or online?

D. Is there much apprehension, fear or mistrust about doing things online? What might happen?

E. What will happen in the future?


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