Estonia provides us with cheering information on the cycle of adoption and integration of digital modernization of the state and the Knowledge Society. The "S-shaped" learning curve so well known to teachers has reached its peak there and it is no longer question of things being a prospective matter.
Nevertheless, this transformation does observe its own rules and codes. Profit and private commerce as in most countries do not square easily with values of protecting the public and general interest. Also, though any official card (ID card, driving licence, student card, social security card, health card, bank card, voting card, etc.) can be fitted with a sovereign ID token through certification of the security conditions implemented by the State's Certification Authority, access to "eKool" for the school system and "iVoting" for elections is prohibited for cards issued by a body with private financial interests (Banks, Telecom Operators, Credit Institutions). Estonia has clearly understood that however much of a major effort is put into adoption and communications, trust in the State's digital procedures, and in the modernization of the Social Bond more broadly speaking, could not afford to be compromised in the slightest way before the population has been educated on a wide scale. This is one of the reasons why the powerful programme to establish interoperability of citizens' data and the switch to mobile ID were launched in 2007 accompanied by a robust communications campaign on the strong desire of the State to become a global showcase for the protection of individual data.
In terms of trust, which is only an advanced form of the unconscious perception of risk, Estonia had clearly grasped that what counted was simply the message perceived, which is often at odds with the unfortunate and often counter-productive temptation to do things in a way which is intelligent, but thus also elitist as a result. Public Marketing is still too often the poor relation of e-government programmes and the widespread education of citizens suffers as a result. This is because many public authorities find it hard to admit that e-Government programmes are governed by the same rules as any e-Services programme, to be judged on the basis of culture of customer relations and the relentless media coverage that goes with global consumerism, which seems to have become the only valid way of thinking about the matter. Countries that have not subscribed to this excessively prudent school of thought, which fails to understand the profound nature of the transformation, have seen faster adoption and been able to educate their citizens within shorter timeframes. Estonia is clearly one of these countries.
|To close, a final word from
Tarvi Martens, our guide in Tallinn this summer.
"We are too small a country and above all too poor for us to be able to afford to invent an intelligent programme and expect to be able to measure the effects… We have to be pragmatic, and our budgetary restrictions mean we have to get it right first time. That is only possible with the very close involvement of citizens. We are there to serve the Estonian people. It is up to us to convince them, get them on board, reassure them, educate them and quickly show them the benefits of working together. As long as we remain humble and pragmatic with regard to our citizens, they will follow us.
We put together a programme that mirrors how they live their daily lives and we put our culture and our understanding of collective well-being at its very centre. If, according to the definition that people are using today, this is said to be at the very cutting edge of Sustainable Human Development, then we are not going to complain if people say we are a showcase and innovators in the field. It is worth noting simply that we have done it without thinking about it, while so many others were spending their time discussing the relevance of the definition. This is why our programme certainly has plenty of imperfections. But it has been strongly adopted by our citizens. I'm tempted to say that it is not really a programme or a plan at all. It is quite simply speaking Life in Estonia."
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