Tuesday Project Spotlight: The Cool-Est Government Services
e-Estonia is the brainchild of the government of Estonia. When they gained their independence, after the end of the Cold War, the government of Estonia focused heavily on IT development policies. These policies included providing internet literacy programs and computer skills programs. In fact, the country of Estonia has focused on technology and the internet so heavily that nearly 99% if the population uses the internet regularly. Estonia was one of the first countries to embrace blockchain technology in 2008, as a response to cyber attacks on the nation’s digital systems with an aim of mitigating possible insider threats.
Estonia’s government is using Guardtime’s KSI blockchain stack to provide government services. Several Estonian state agencies are utilizing blockchain technology for public services, including the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications. The use of blockchain technology allows the people of Estonia to have 100% trust in government data and provides the ability to verify the integrity of the government data independently. The Estonian government, through e-Estonia, has invested greatly in blockchain technology in order to protect the data of its citizens and has strengthened the integrity of government systems and data. In fact, nearly 99% of state services are offered online.
The Ministry of Justice’s use of the blockchain helped court proceedings become faster and more transparent. The e-File central information system, which runs on the KSI blockchain, is a public portal available to citizens and other parties. It acts as a database that has data from the police information systems, jails, prosecutors, and criminal case management systems. The e-File system saves time and money because the data is only entered once and all communications between the parties of a case are electronic. This system has raised transparency and efficiency, reduces time and costs by automating processes, and provides a better overview of cases and proceeding for every party. In fact, since 2018, over 73,000 e-court cases have been sent through the court information system and the average length of Estonian court civil proceedings has dropped from 156 days to 99 days in five years.
e-Estonia’s progress in the last 30 years has been phenomenal, however, it is still a unique case study. It is difficult to convince an entire government to agree to invest in a new innovation like blockchain technology, especially as early as Estonia did in 2008. As a small country, Estonia is more nimble than larger nations. In addition, though e-Estonia uses a blockchain, it uses an external provider to host their platform on. This may still lead to data breaches since the government doesn’t fully control the blockchain and its regulations.
e-Estonia has shown the world how blockchain technology can be used to not only benefit lawyers, but also benefit the residents of a country. Governments may be reluctant to trust a new technology, but it is clear to see that the transparency and efficiency of blockchains can benefit everyone involved in the legal system. Lawyers can advocate for the use of new technologies through helping draft state or federal regulations, and push legislators to consider the benefits blockchain technology could offer to states with limited resources.
e-Estonia is definitely one of the most forward thinking government projects out there. It has offered a view into how beneficial the use of blockchain technology can be to both the state and its citizens. We will be keeping an eye on this project here at the Blockchain Law for Social Good Center.