A Population-Wide ID card (Estonia) (eID-Estonia)

Published on: 13/09/2005

Estonia has implemented the electronic ID card as the primary document for identifying its citizens and the alien residents living within the country. The card, besides being a physical identification document, has advanced electronic functions that facilitate secure authentication and legally binding digital signature, in connection with nationwide online services. The Estonian ID card is used to gain access to a number of Internet-based services, including viewing and changing data in the Estonian Citizenship and Migration Board systems, running queries to the national registers, using the E-Tax Board, gaining access to several banks, giving digital signatures, purchasing and using ID-tickets, and many others.

Policy Context

The Estonian Information Society Strategy 2013 aims to achieve a situation, where the ID card is the main personal identification tool in the electronic environment both for the public and private sector. The legislation concerning the personal identification code and the ID card will be reviewed so as to ensure its conformity to the requirements of the information society. The Estonian IT Interoperability Framework recognizes the electronic ID card as a strategic component in achieving security and interoperability of the Estonian information society.

Description of target users and groups

Estonian citizens.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The card issuing as well as its further operation is done in close public private partnership. There are three main organizations that are associated with issuing and operating the ID card and the associated infrastructure. The Estonian Citizenship and Migration Board is the government organization responsible for issuing identification documents to Estonian citizens and alien residents. AS Sertifitseerimiskeskus functions as the certification authority, maintains the electronic infrastructure necessary for issuing and using the card, and develops the associated services and software. TRÃœB Baltic AS, subsidiary of Swiss TRÃœB AG, is the company that personalizes the card.

Main results, benefits and impacts

The Estonian ID card has two main functions. First of all, it works as a regular ID, useful to prove the age or identity when paying at a retailer using a bank card or at a local government office. The ID card also functions as an electronic identity, enabling citizens to use services online conveniently and securely. The card is not limited to specific services. Any organization, public or private, has the opportunity to "ID enable" its service and thus start serving people online.

One can also use her/his ID card to give digital signatures. According to Estonian law, digital signatures are equivalent to handwritten ones if the systems used to give and process them meet certain regulations.

Each ID card contains two certificates and their associated private keys protected with PIN codes.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

Due to the achievements in terms of eGovernment interoperability, the project has been evaluated in this regard by the MODINIS Interoperability Study consortium on behalf of the European Commission.

Lessons learnt

Lesson 1 - A nation-wide ID card is feasible, when carefully planned, initiated, deployed and supported.

Lesson 2 - It is critical to develop useful applications, to stimulate people to purchase equipment and to educate them in the use of the tools.

Lesson 3 - This experience might be used by other governments when developing their nation-wide ID card infrastructures.

Scope: National