The E-Estonia system will seem a little Orwellian to some people. Watching the documentary about the system above made me think of the potential dark side of a digital citizenship system in the wrong hands.
However, the system clearly improves lives of Estonian citizens. In a sense, it actually increases their freedom by streamlining their interactions with their government, which makes large and grossly inefficient government bureaucracies less necessary. This could be the reason why Estonians enjoy excellent social services and also pay low taxes by European standards.
The most notable way it improves the lives of Estonians is by reducing the amount of paperwork and time wasted waiting in long lines at government offices. Estonians can renew their passports, update their drivers license, register a new business and access their voting or medical records instantly through the digital citizenship system.
The system is also robust and secure, in fact, it seems a lot more secure than more traditional paper files where it is difficult to track who views them. With their E-Estonia initiative, a digital footprint is created by all activity, which makes everything more secure. As a testament to what the Estonians have created, NATO chose to base their Cooperative Cyber Defence initiative in the Estonian capital of Tallinn.
Regardless of whether you find E-Estonia’s digital citizenship system Orwellian or innovation genius, technology is going to transform the nature of government, citizenship and society itself. With the right digital infrastructure, we can replace inefficient bureaucracies with digital access passes and replace most politicians with crowdsourcing systems where citizens directly participate in the debate and then vote on the issues that affect their lives.