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Estonia E-Governance: A foreigner's perspective by Morayo Omogunloye


E-governance should be a lifestyle for every country.

For a long time, the only use of the Internet seemed to be connecting with different people in different parts of the world and unlimited access to information. All of this changed, as I recently encountered Estonia’s e-governance, which undoubtedly has the most digitized public sector in the world. As an International student from West Africa (Nigeria), currently studying in Bachelor of Arts in Politics and Governance, never could I have  imagined that a country could utilize the Internet on a national level (it seemed like the whole country was a mobile phone or a personal computer, fantastic!). The system of E-governance I am experiencing in Estonia feels like a re-orientation, an eye-opener. It is amazing, what a country can achieve if all citizens, residents and business owners, home and abroad, have a possibility to access public services conveniently.

In my home country Nigeria, I have had access to internet banking, using some federal government portals for job application, but we are far from e-voting, e-Tax online vehicle or citizens registration, having access to citizens' information and online company registration.  How easy it is for an Estonian citizen to vote online, anywhere in the world. As an entrepreneur, owning and managing a business online without living in Estonia. First of its kind in any country known as E-residency.

Some people refer to Estonia as a small country, because of its size and population. Fortunately, the country has a lot to be learned from the strength of its tech-savvy, which has been incorporated into its governing style by connecting the government and its citizens digitally.   The public services in Estonia range from banking, voting, paying taxes, providing e-residency, and much more. I have been able to access my health records, register my vehicle and change ownership online, register/change my home address online, sign an agreement digitally, draft and conclude contracts digitally, access loan without walking into the bank, buy and sell anything at my comfort zone with no physical contact just with my physical ID card and the online security with the use of Smart-ID is commendable. It shows a working democracy! I can't remember the last time I had to queue at a banking hall and trust me! You don’t want to miss the waiting lines.  The bottom line is, there is no full access to public services in my country and it limits me as a citizen to feel at home.

Watching and listening to some video content about Estonia’s transition to a digitalized world in 2002 is amazing. Estonians had to start their country from the scratch, after they gained independence and according to the visioners of e-Estonia, Digitalization was more of a "necessity" than a choice. In the past 28 years in Estonia, the paradigm shift from government to e-governance is a hallmark of democracy for other countries to embrace the internet and technology culture.

Personally I feel that e-governance was possible because of the small size of the country, and the trust that Estonian people have for their government. The ability of the government to allow its citizens, business owners, and non-citizens to participate in all levels of governance shows them as a progressive country, whose government cares about its people. However, I can't help but wonder "what if something goes wrong"? The E-governance system is prone to cyber-attacks (which happened in the past around 2007), if all data falls into the wrong hands, the country could be thrown into chaos, but I do not see that happening ever because of its innovation sense and a working government.

E-governance in Estonia makes life comfortable for people, there is no doubt. If only other countries could apply some, if not all of these methods, to public services, it would improve them a long way. The world is more connected than it ever was, so Digitalization isn't such a bad idea. Living and studying in an advanced country, like Estonia, has helped me to settle into the country without stress because everything I need is online and accessible. Out of all other advanced countries, Estonia is leading in the role of e-governance according to a European Commission report based on its transparency, cross-border mobility, user ability to trust the government, and user-centricity.

I have become so accustomed to the e-governance practice of Estonia and it might be a reason for me to stay in Estonia longer than I thought. This practice is worth learning for any aspiring politician and anyone who wants to work in the government like me.