Archive for January, 2008

mClusters conference in Tallinn, Estonia, 6-7 December 2007

Monday, January 14th, 2008

Tallinn Region – ”the European e-region”

Tallinn has been the European lead region in reorganising the public sector through the use of new e-technologies for collaboration between the public sector and private enterprises, thereby enhancing the offerings for citizens in the Tallinn region and in Estonia as a whole. The first IT strategy was implemented in 1994 on the basis of a very positive attitude of both the population and the government to implement new e-technologies and this attitude is unchanged and has allowed to convert Estonia in the leading e-technology country in Europe.

Hannes Astok, member of the Estonian parliament and former program director of the Estonian e-governance academy, and Vaino Olev, Tallinn City IT director, underlined the importance  of the e-governance program to facilitate the communication between citizens and the Estonian administration. Several initiatives have been conducted during the last years to enable electronic transactions in all areas of public life.

e-Governance Academy

The Estonoan government has early on realised the importance of an e-Governance Academy (eGA) to develop the strategy for the country’s IT infrastructure. The eGA is a non-profit organisation for the creation and transfer of knowledge concerning e-governance, with a special emphasis on tools for developing democracy and civil society. The main activities consist of research & analysis, training and consultancy and many of the Estonian successes have had their roots in the e-governance academy activities.

Success Factors for the Estonian “e-Hype”

According to Hannes Astok the following five success factors were key to the successful transformation of the region into an e-technologies region and thus serving as a best practice to other European regions:

• good level of education and research
• relatively young ICT systems
• Finnish, Swedish and German influence
• good telecom infrastructures and high level of eBanking
• flexibility of a small country

e-Estonia Facts and Figures

• 62 % of population are Internet users.
• 42 % of the households have a computer, 82 % of home computers are connected to the Internet.
• over 700 Public Internet Access Points in Estonia, 51 per 100 000 people
• more than 1 079 000 smart-card type ID-cards issued (all populaton 1.34m)
• 86% of tax  declarations were e-declarations (2006), increased by 12% compared to 2005
• 1st place in Internet Banking – (next are  Norway, Nederlands, New Zealand….)

The digital infrastructure is part of a wider strategy to transform Estonia into the leading “digital society” in Europe, focusing the resources in the country on how to develop applications and use the existing infrastructure to create a leading environment of high-technology companies to prosper in an area with a high engagement of the public sector and citizens as lead-markets.

e-Voting and e-Payments with the National Identity Card

Now the goals of the ongoing e-government strategy are based on a
customer- centric orientation (bottom up) to achieve an efficient and transparent public sector. The government wants to foster the integration of the Estonian population in democratic participation and therefore has been a European pioneer for e-voting based on a functioning model for protection of personal data.

E-voting is based on the introduction of a smart national identity card introduced already in 2002 and now equipped with a RSA crypto chip to allow for two private keys – enabling authentification and digital signatures. Over 1 million smard ID cards  have been issued by January 2007 (~ 90% of 15 to 74-year-old persons) including 230.000 ID-cards for foreigners.
A certification centre has been created at national level as a private limited company entity to contract with the government for the certification of the national ID-card and to develop the required electronic infrastructure and software. The company is held by a consortium of banking institutes and telecom operators.

Now e-voting has first been used by a public opinion poll in Tallinn in March 2005, thereafter in the local elections in October 2005 with about 2% uptake (9317 persons using e-voting). In March 2007 the Estonian parliament elections received a usage uptake of 5,5% (32 275 citizens) and it is planned to expand on e-voting for both the EU parliament elections in June 2009 and the next local elections in 2009.

Central Register and Data Exchange between Registers – X-Road

For 2008 and 2009 the Estonian government plans to complete the introduction of a central information repository to avoid citizen data redundancy and incorrect or not updated information. The aim is to conduct a vertical (state – local) and horizontal in-house IT systems integration, the project being named x-road. The Estonian citizens will no longer be required to deliver personal information to various administrations, but will only communicate relevant information once. All administration entities will  then be able and required (legal obligation) to retrieve relevant personal data from the central registry. The citizens can refuse to communicate personal information already delivered one time to an Estonian administration authority.

Tallinn e- or m-Technology Projects

Tallin has implemented several innovative projects that are running successfully based on the introduction of free Wireless Internet access: Tallinn has introduced more than 49 wireless Internet Connection HotSpots (WiFi) in the city’s most popular parks, squares and beaches (summer time only) entirely free of charge.

This infrastructure has enabled projects such as:

• M-parking (more than 60% of parking revenues in Tallinn come from mobile parking payments)
• ID-ticket in public transport  (virtual ticket, its users prove that hey have a pre-paid ticket with their mational identification cards, 100 000 ID-ticket daily users, 72,0 % of all passengers are ID-ticket users)
• e-School (communication of examination results via SMS, online lesson planning and communication etc.)

Further, more detailed information can be obtained upon request.
Implementation of  technology parks in Tallinn

The Tallinn-based Technopol park is an example of a successful PPP project to concentrate relevant know-how in a technology park development.

Tecnopol is located in the area of the former academy of sciences and is now aiming to  grow to challenge other European tecnoparks. Currently the park is hosting 135 companies (mostly innovative SME’s) on 10 acres of land. The industry sectors are divided between ICT, Biotec and materials sectors and the entire park is located next to the Tallinn technical university and IT college with approximately 12.500 persons (students and researchers). Tecnopol is also the home of the Skype research & development center and companies such as Cybernetica, concentrating on data security and mobile data transmission.

This is even more relevant as the Tallinn region (and Estonia) can be considered an excellent testbed to develop and test new innovative e- and m-solutions with an enthusiastic attitude of the local population and the Estonian government.

European clusters should start to consider Estonia as the key region for testing new applications as there are very few legal or attitude barriers in place, unlike in other European technology clusters.