“e-Stonia” e-merges from the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic, freeing citizens of Estonia from the chains of personal restrictions and public censorship. In 1991, after decades of repression under the Soviet sphere of influence, Estonians finally had the chance to express their intellectual capabilities and join the rest of the technologically-advancing world. Estonia is most notably known in the technological sphere for giving birth to Skype, and it is one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world. The country’s population, about 1.4 million, is only roughly the size of Manhattan’s population, but still, their electronic development in the past twenty years is undeniably astounding.
Once Estonia gained independence from the Soviet Union, the internet became one of the most significant economic and cultural factors to shape the recently-renewed country. Estonian government adviser and lecturer at the Estonian IT College, Linnar Viik explains the presence of internet in Estonia well; “For other countries, the internet is just another service, like tap water, or clean streets, but for young Estonians, the internet is a manifestation of something more than a service – it’s a symbol of democracy and freedom.” Estonians’ entire daily lives are lived via technology and Wi-Fi.
In 2012 approximately 90% of Estonians used an ID card, which can be used for public transportation, online-banking, shopping, and since 2005, online-voting. Nowhere throughout the country is Wi-Fi accessibility a problem, except during the “internet riot”, when protesters attacked access, creating a “cyber-siege”. This temporary denial of access influenced Estonia to form a Cyber Defense league, basically a volunteer geek squad that works on previous and potential internet issues. With so much support throughout the country, Estonians are easily able to perform daily tasks in an environmentally friendly way. In one sense, the ID cards are wonderful, because they are reusable, lightweight, and multifunctional. They are green in that they prevent paper waste in writing checks, paying bills through old-fashioned mail, printing bus tickets, et cetera. And they are efficient, because they reduce the time spent waiting in line at stores, at the metro station, and they allow citizens abroad to vote in domestic elections.
The question of sustainability is a fair one to ask in this quickly developing post-Soviet country. In order to keep the country’s future generation actively involved in this technological phenomenon not just as users or consumers, Estonia announced plans to teach computer coding to public school students as young as first-graders. As younger generations become more and more well-versed in computer code, security could become an issue since a greater population will be trained in the once complicated field of computer science. While educating students in computer programming may be beneficial for innovation, it could cultivate a new generation of hackers and internet abusers. Online ingenuity could potentially harm local businesses and companies in the music and movie industries, especially with Estonia’s lenient censorship restrictions. If the population grows in Estonia, the practice of online-voting or “digital democracy” may become too large to monitor safely via internet. There is no doubt that Estonia’s passion for technological aids will continue to move the country forward. However, only time will tell how much comprehensive incorporation of technological inventions into life will affect the Baltic community.