How Estonia became an Internet titan

The European country where Skype was born made a conscious decision to embrace the web after shaking off Soviet shackles. In a tiny (population: 1.4 million) and newly independent country likeEstonia, politicians realised computers could help quickly compensate for both a minuscule workforce and a chronic lack of physical infrastructure.

Seventeen years on, the internet has done more than just help. It is now tightly entwined withEstonia’s identity. “For other countries, the internet is just another service, like tap water, or clean streets,” said Linnar Viik, a lecturer at the Estonian IT College, a government adviser and a man almost synonymous inEstoniawith the rise of the web.

“But for young Estonians, the internet is a manifestation of something more than a service – it’s a symbol of democracy and freedom.”

To see why, you just have to go outside. Free Wi-Fi is everywhere, and has been for a decade.

By 1997 a staggering 97% of Estonian schools already had internet. Now 42 Estonian services are now managed mainly through the internet. Last year, 94% of tax returns were made online, usually within five minutes. You can vote on your laptop and sign legal documents on a smartphone. Cabinet meetings have been paperless since 2000.

Doctors only issue prescriptions electronically, while in the main cities you can pay by text for bus tickets, parking, and – in some cases – a pint of beer. Not bad for country where, two decades ago, half the population had no phone line.

Central to the Estonian project is the ID card, introduced in 2002. Nine in 10 Estonians have one, and – by slotting it into their computer – citizens can use their card to vote online, transfer money and access all the information the state has on them.

Read more from The Guardian: How tiny Estonia stepped out of USSR’s shadow to become an internet titan

President: there is still arrogant attitude towards us in Western Europe

Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves criticized the still arrogant stance of some Western countries’  towards the supposedly primitive and ignorant East.

“In some Western European countries there is still arrogant attitude towards the supposedly primitive and ignorant East. It is pretty frustrating to see that when you follow all the rules of the game, the ones who discredited you, themselves violate the rules,” said Ilves in an interview to the Austrian daily newspaper Die Presse.

Ilves brought an example of unfairly small grants given to Estonian farmers compared to those given to Western European countries.

“Look at the EU’s agricultural policy. How do you explain the fact that we have a common internal market for tractors, seed and fertilizers and on the other hand, EU old members receive three times higher farm subsidies than Baltic countries fromBrussels? Or the fact that the EU’s diplomatic service is hardly represented by Eastern Europeans?

It is true that Poland and Estonia are currently treated well – but it is so only because media prefers to portray extraordinary. Responsibility in matters of money in those days seems to be an unusual round. Unfortunately. ”

Regarding the financial crises in Greek Ilves said that Estonian politicians acted responsibly and in solidarity, but in a long term it is not acceptable in terms of democracy that a poor country is helping a rich country out of trouble. Voters will not accept that. He added that Estonian GDP per capita is smaller than in Greece. Our average monthly income is 10-15 percent lower than Greek minimum salary; let alone pensions.

Source: tabloid Ohtuleht.ee; original source President.ee, Die Presse