LatAm officials look to Estonia e-gov model

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Latin American authorities have praised Estonia's 'country-as-a-service' e-government model, saying it is an example to follow in the region.

At a regional digital government summit being held this week in Santiago, Chile, Estonia's digital policy official Siim Sikkut explained how his country has rolled out digital national ID cards that sync with banking and SIM cards, cross-border databases to facilitate business and healthcare, and digital services provided to other nations through a 'country-as-a-service' model.

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The head of Latin American e-government network Red Gealc, José Clastornik, compared Estonia, a country of 1.3mn inhabitants, to his native Uruguay, which despite being one of the smallest countries in the region (3mn inhabitants) is one of the most advanced in terms of e-government, digital education and fiber connectivity.

"Connectivity is key but that is only the beginning. It's essential for countries to make e-government a public policy that permeates all institutions, not just one," Clastornik said.

Sikkut said that while being small helps to a certain extent in terms of decision making and implementation, all countries have a similar number of government services to implement and the only thing that changes is the scale in terms of population.

Estonia is often held up as an example due to the general acceptance and adoption of e-government services. The country has achieved 100% use of digital signature and 96% of the population files tax returns online.

"We see lots of cool innovations around the world but people rarely use them. Estonian people are pragmatic. If something works, they will use it. It is important that e-government services make life easier for people," Sikkut told BNamericas.

An agreement with neighboring Finland has also won it praise. Finland adopted Estonia's digital government platform, which has facilitated data sharing. So a business person traveling between both countries does not need to carry ID, and the death of an Estonian living in Finland is automatically updated in the native country's records. Health and tax records are also integrated.

Estonia is also promoting a country-as-a-service model, whereby it charges users a 100-euro fee for an Estonian digital ID, which provides digital benefits such as streamlined bureaucracy in setting up a company.

"We offer you a hassle-free company and management environment. The digital ID gives companies a level of legitimacy to payment providers, business partners, that might be harder to obtain in their country of origin," Clastornik said.