How Estonia is Pioneering the Digital Identity Space

Metadium
Metadium
Jun 6, 2019 · 4 min read

Dear Metadians,

With the current interest in blockchain-based national IDs systems we thought it would be valuable to explore the different attributes a digital identity platform has with a real-life use case.

Currently, Estonia leads the digital identity frontier, primarily because of its highly-developed national ID card system. Their mandatory national ID card system does much more than identify an Estonian citizen but provides digital access to all of Estonia’s e-services. The most important observation to make, is how an entire developed nation like Estonia managed to successfully implement a digital identity verification platform for its nation’s citizens. Estonia’s platform validates many of the purported benefits of proliferating a digital ID platform.

Each card a citizen receives has a chip embedded with files and uses public key encryption to ensure the safety of users. In August 2017, a potential security threat was discovered which could’ve affected 750,000 ID and e-residency holders- but fortunately the threat was stopped before any widespread damage occurred. The crisis did lead to tens of thousands of citizens who were not allowed access to some e-services for a limited period of time.

Although it may seem like Estonia went through a crisis, their Smart-ID authentication app grew sixfold in a short amount of time. Citizens were looking for alternative ways to regain access to these e-services during the short-lived crisis. To access the Smart-ID app, one needed to own a smartphone or tablet and download the app through the Google Play store or iOS store. This shows the flexibility of Estonia’s digital identification infrastructure to find ways where all users practice their right to self-sovereign identity.

Director of the e-residency program, Kaspar Korjus, said how “the Estonian government [had] no intentions of letting a good crisis go to waste (as the saying goes), and will use this as an opportunity to carry out further robust development of e-services”. This crisis has allowed them to embrace failure, these minor setbacks demonstrate the perseverance of the Estonian people.

Here are the eight attributes of Estonia’s digital identity platform:

e-Governance

Estonia may be the only country where 99% of public services are available online. Claiming that the only e-services unavailable are for marriages, divorce, and real-estate transactions.

e-Tax

Around 98% of all tax declarations in Estonia are filed electronically annually. It has created immense efficiency as it typically takes three to five minutes to file tax declarations. Even one-click tax returns has been possible since 2015.

X-Road

The backbone of e-Estonia which allows the nation’s public and private section e-service information systems to link up and function in harmony. It was designed with growth in mind, so scaling is no issue as new e-services and new platforms come online.

i-Voting

Short for Internet Voting, i-Voting is a system that allows voters to cast their ballot simply through any internet-connected computer in the world. i-Voting is allowed during a pre-voting period where voters log onto a system using an ID-card or Mobile-ID and casting their vote. As for anonymity purposes, the voter’s identity is removed before it reaches the National Electoral Commission.

Blockchain

After suffering from a cyber attack in 2007, scalable blockchain technology was developed to protect its data against cyber threats. Estonian government has deployed their KSI blockchain and has integrated it with their e-Health Records and more. Restricting history to be rewritten by anyone, including the government.

Cryptocurrency

Korjus acknowledged that their e-residency team is working on making Estonia the best country for ICOs. They want to continue to build on regulations, KYC, taxation, banking, and best practices for companies who would want to launch their token sale from Estonia.

e-Health Record

Electronic Health Record is a nationwide system that integrates different healthcare providers to create a common record that every patient can access online. This is a powerful tool which allows healthcare providers to access patient’s records easily as it may save lives if time is limited.

e-Residency

E-Residency is a transnational digital identity that anyone in the world can apply for to obtain access to their platform. The primary purpose of e-residency is to allow e-residents to run a location-independent EU business online and has all the tools needed to conduct business globally.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that Estonia is pioneering the digital identity space. With almost all public services online, it’s said that Estonia saves 1407 years of working time annually. They’ve taken their setback in 2017 and capitalized on it by counteracting with robust development. It won’t be a surprise to see Estonia pave the way for countries to do the same in the near future. But most importantly, Estonia’s application of a digital identity service showcases the many benefits of implementing a self-sovereign identity. Metadium’s view aligns with this and aims to create a world where individuals are owners of all aspects of their identity in the offline and online world through self-sovereign identity.

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Metadium

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