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“Country as a startup”, CIO of Estonian e-Government – Taavi Kotka in Malta


What might happen when you give freedom for a crazy software engineer to run Government IT.

Sometimes, being a small country is a huge advantage – it is much easier to implement and enforce new laws, systems, services and make life of citizens much more convenient.  Estonia has shown that on its own example and became a leader in innovation in the area of e-Government technologies, digital identity, mobile ID an more.

Mr. Taavi Kotka – CIO of Estonian Government – was sharing his experience of creating a digital society during his visit to Malta (Series of “Exceptional Entrepreneurs” events, organised by EY Malta).

How to deliver government services to people in the country where density of population is 4 people per square km?

How to hold elections in March, when all the roads are blocked with snow and people can’t come to the polling station in the city?

How to innovate without foreign loan and on tight budget?

How to “create” more citizens that would do business and pay tax in the country?

By answering these questions Estonia managed to build one of the most advanced e-Government system in the world.

Estonian e-Government


Estonian e-Government is based on X-road system and is similar to an Enterprise Service Bus that is used in IT systems of big companies. Interconnected architecture combined with managed access rights and security protocols creates an environment where “everybody is watching everybody” – which makes it a very secure and transparent environment.

All Government data is stored in distributed databases, there is a also a backup of all data and systems, stored in remote data warehouses – that gives an opportunity to “restore and run the country” remotely in case of emergency.

Data Embassy

In Estonia all citizens have ID card and unique identity number – that are integral parts of e-identity of citizens. This system allowed Estonia to be the first country where voting could be done online – form any location, where a citizen has computer, internet connection and ID card reader.

Once all these systems were in place – Estonia opened up to citizens of other countries, offering its e-Residence – a zero cost project that brought a lot of attention, interest and business to Estonia.

Estonia - country as a startup

Taavi Kotka predicts that in the future countries will compete for citizens and those who offer better services and conditions will win and thrive.

Can Malta follow Estonian example ? What will it take ?


*by Anastasiia Linnas, based on the speech of Taavi Kotka “Ditigizing a country’s residents”, Exceptional Entrepreneurs event, organised by EY Malta, Malta, October 2016.