(20 September 2007)

  • 64 per cent of population aged 16 to 74 are Internet users (2007 Q1, Statistics Estonia).
  • 53 per cent of households have access to the Internet at home (2007 Q1, Statistics Estonia).
  • All Estonian schools are connected to the internet.
  • A network of Public Internet Access Points covers most of Estonia's cities and towns.
  • In addition to Public Internet Access Points it is possible in more than 1100 public places for laptop users to utilize rapid wi-fi internet connections; in many places that service is free of charge. The area of wi-fi internet is constantly growing and encompasses all of Estonia. (www.wifi.ee)
  • Income tax declarations can be made electronically via internet. In 2007, over 80 per cent of income tax declarations were presented through e-Tax Board.
  • Expenditures made by the government can be followed on the Internet in real-time.
  • Cabinet meetings have been changed to paperless sessions using a web-based document system.
  • There are more mobile phone contracts than residents - 123 per 100 people (National Communication Board, 2007).
  • Estonia is completely covered by digital mobile phone networks.

According to the research undertaken by the World Economic Forum on the use of information technology in 122 countries (The Global Information Technology Report 2006-2007 - The Network Readiness of Nations, www.weforum.org), Estonia ranks 20th in the Networked Readiness Index and is the highest ranking Central and Eastern European country.

In the European Commission's annual survey of online government services in European Union nations, Estonia was second only to Austria in terms of availability of public services online.

The national information technology framework document is called "Estonian Information Society Strategy 2013," and it sets out the general framework, objectives, and areas of activity for the next several years. A separate government office exists to coordinate the national IT budget with legislation and international co-operation; the office also carries out its own projects.

In 2001, the central database X-Road (X-Tee) was launched, which today provides access to 67 different databases and 687 services. The X-Road's services are used by 392 institutions and companies. The increasing number of services provided by X-Road has made it a comfortable and secure online environment for individual citizens as well, where they can view their information registered in different national databases.

In 2005, the VillageWay 3 (KülaTee 3) project, which aims to bring internet connections to sparsely populated areas of the country, was launched. With this project, the number of internet users will hopefully increase, and the "digital gap" between city and rural inhabitants will be reduced.

Within the years 2002-2004, computer and Internet courses took place free of charge for adult residents of Estonia. In the framework of the unique training project "Vaata maailma", which was fully funded by the private sector, 102,697 people received training, which accounts for 10 per cent of Estonia's adult population. Surveys following the training have shown that more than 70 per cent of the participants have used Internet after passing the training.

In 2006, the four biggest sponsors of the "Vaata maailma" project collaborated with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication to create the co-operation agreement "Computer Protection 2009", which aims to make Estonia the nation with the most secure information society in the world by the year 2009.
The primary goal of the project is to ensure that the e-services and IT solutions that play a vital role in the economy remain secure and trustworthy in the future. The project sponsors want to increase citizens' trust for e-services and make them feel at ease in their communication with the state over the internet, and also increase awareness of potential hazards on the internet and how to protect one's computer from them. An important facet of the project is introducing the possibility of using one's ID card electronically. News, information and instructions can be found on the project-related information site
www.arvutikaitse.ee (currently only in Estonia).

As of 2003, it is possible for all Estonian schools to use the web-based school-home communication environment e-School (eKool). The purpose of e-School is to engage parents more actively in the study process, make information on subjects more available to children as well as to parents, and to facilitate the work of teachers and of the school management. For example, via e-School one can follow the marks given to students, their absence from classes, the substance of lessons, and homework and assessments given to students by teachers at the end of the study period. There are already 220 schools across Estonia using eSchool.

Estonia shares its experiences as an e-state with other countries as well. The e-Governance Academy (
www.ega.ee) has trained over 500 participants from 32 countries, including Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cuba, Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Namibia, Tajikistan, Romania, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro.

ID card
As of September 2007, 960 358 Estonian inhabitants (over 70 per cent of the population) have ID cards. The Estonian ID card serves as an identification document and, within the European Union, also as a travel document. In addition to its physical use, the card is also used as proof of ID when utilizing online services. For example, one can use the ID card to sign with a digital signature, buy a bus ticket, and participate in elections.

In October 2005, the population of Estonia had for the first time the opportunity to participate in the local government elections via Internet without leaving home. When giving one's electronic vote, the voter had to identify himself/herself by means of his/her ID card. In the parliamentary elections in the spring of 2007 it was also possible to vote via the Internet, and about 5% of voters took advantage of this opportunity.

A new way of payment by mobile phone
Since November 2002, Hansapank and SEB Bank, the two largest Estonian banks, have offered the opportunity to make payments via mobile phone. As of August 2007, it is possible to effect payments in over 1,700 paying places. Among them are motels, beauty salons, and shops, as well as taxi and catering businesses. Sales places facilitating mobile payment are recognizable by their blue and yellow sticker with the text on them: «Maksa mobiiliga» (Pay by mobile phone).

By mobile phones one can pay also for parking cars (m-parking), phoning a certain number or sending SMS. To inform the parking controller about payment being effected by phone, the corresponding m-parking sticker is stuck on the windshield or the right side window of the vehicle.

Estonia – the homeland of Kazaa, Skype and Hotmail
(30 March 2005)

When one introduces Estonia abroad as a highly developed info technological country, one gets surprised reactions from pure wonderment to ironic and doubtful nods "Is that so...really?" Asking what does Estonia, Hotmail, Kazaa and Skype have in common, an unsavy person would not know what to answer. Estonia is, yes, one country somewhere, the location of which might be difficult to define for some persons. The computer users obviously know what are Kazaa, Skype and Hotmail, but most of them don’t know how they are linked to Estonia. Actually it is very easy. Estonia is the country, which could be called the homeland of the three info technological super achievements.

"Hot mail" – Hotmail

The oldest, biggest and well known of those is obviously the Hotmail system, whose lineage "father" is 37-year-old Steve Jürvetson (one of the owners and also managing director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson). Steve's father and mother escaped from occupied Estonia to Canada, where they met for the first time and also married, before moving to the States.

At first, Steve worked as a young risk investor and during these times bought the risky project of Hotmail from a young Hindu for 300 000 dollars and began developing it. After two years, Jürvetson sold the product for 400 million dollars to Microsoft.

KaZaa – shared files and court cases

The primary code writers of KaZaa and Skype are Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu and Jaan Tallin - all of them 32 years old and childhood friends. They programmed the original KaZaa code together with an Estonian and Swedish team.

KaZaa' s birth resulted in several court cases around Europe and also in the US. After enormous success, the founders sold KaZaa to Sharman Network, who still offers KaZaa downloads. The well-known North-European portal Everyday.com was also created by the same trio - Heinla, Kasesalu and Tallinn.

The free phoning software Skype conquers the world

After selling KaZaa to Sharman Networks, Zennström and Friis decided to establish a new company and hired the same programmers who created KaZaa. The team got also an addition in a new Estonian programmer, named Toivo Annus. The new company created a highly popular software – Skype, which enables the user to make free telephone calls all over the world. The only condition necessary to talk is that the persons need to install Skype into their computers.

The advantage of Skype compared to other similar programs (like MSN Messenger for example) is the purity of the sound quality, the living proof of which is the growing user base. The free Internet phone created by three young men could have serious consequences in the communication business, at least that is what various info technology and telecommunication specialists predict.

Talking about e-Estonia one cannot leave out Estonian e-government, the Estonian machine-readable ID-card, which has served as an example to quite a few countries in the world. Go, e-Estonia, go!

Written by Priit Kivi & Dea Martinjonis
website of Estonian Society in Lisbon

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