The Estonian e-Governance academy (eGA) is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation, founded in 2002 for the creation and transfer of knowledge about e-government, e-democracy, open information societies and national cyber security.
The eGA was established in 2002 as a joint initiative of the Estonian Government, the Open Society Foundation (OSF), and the Bratislava Regional Support Centre (BRC) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The creation of such academy followed a decade of modernisation started in 1991 with the country’s independence. Estonia always acted as a pioneer on e-services, and e-economy in general, and became a vanguard country on different fields of e-government, such as e-Residency. The choice of investing so much and so early on ICT solution brought Estonia among the top players on this topic. From this ascertainment, the Estonian government decided to share its experience and solutions with other interested countries.
Description of target users and groups
The eGovernance academy trains and advises leaders and stakeholders in using information and communications technology. It intends to assist the implementation of e-government technical solutions to increase government efficiency and to improve democratic processes.
The target audience of the academy is composed of ministries as well as national or local governments’ representatives, interested to apply some of the proposed models or to adopt and implement them in their respective entities.
Almost 30 countries showed interest in eGA and sent their representatives to Tallinn, where the academy is headquartered, to get used with the concerned solutions and concepts.
The post-Soviet space is a key target as numerous of its States are involved (Ukraine, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova - where the academy has carried out eight projects in the recent years) and their public authorities benefit from the work of the academy and become more transparent with the help of ICT.
Other very interesting projects take place in the developing countries of Middle East, Africa and Latin America. This can be seen from the map shown on the website of the academy and below.
European Union is also a very important target and some of the knowledge brought by the academy helps countries to progress in some specific domains (for example the Cypriot eID).
Description of the way to implement the initiative
Since its creation, the academy aim is to transfer the technology solution to the interested countries or public entities.
Five domains have been developed:
- Central e-government: the focus is put on e-government policies and laws and it includes change management, interoperability electronic identification (eID cards and digital signatures), m-Governance (as “mobile-governance”) and Spatial governance;
- Local e-government: the collection of the best analysed experiences of local e-government is listed and is integrated with the training made specifically for local and regional policy-makers, with a specific view on e-Involvement of citizens in local decision-making policies;
- E-democracy: availability of all the background data and impact assessment about the investments on digital voting and e-participation platforms for citizens, as well as experiences of open government;
- Cyber security, providing a long list of services, policies and rules from around the world concerning the protection of the national or local cyberspace;
- E-services: a long list of digital services based on the experience of Estonia and the best practices from all around the world, for example eID card, digital signature, population register…
In parallel, the list of services has been developed, including:
- Training: organized with the participation of experts with recognized past experience in the field of e-Government in Estonia and in the past projects of the academy abroad;
- Consultancy: the need of a specific entity is assessed by professionals and the best possible solution is consequently suggested;
- Research: in cooperation with universities and other specialised schools, the academy delivers studies especially in the field of e-Participation and generally on digital citizen involvement;
- Networking: after 15 years of experience, the academy has developed connections with many of the main actors of the e-government worldwide. So it can foster constructive partnerships and organize a debate over the best practices every year in the Tallinn Conference;
- Project partnership: in every phase of a project wherever in the world, the academy can deliver best practices and create useful contacts with the most relevant entities in the European Union and all over the world (including the World Bank, the UNDP, etc...)
- Recently an eGA office has been opened in Serbia, in Georgia and in Ukraine, to better follow the implementation of specific e-Policies in these countries that called for the help of the academy.
Many technological solution are applied depending on the principle that is “exported” to a country, most of the times reflecting the one currently implemented in Estonia. An example of such approach is the eID project that is getting trained for Cyprus Republic. It foresees Electronic Authentication and Qualified Electronic Signing based on the Estonian practice.
Main results, benefits and impacts
The main result for Estonia (and thus for the EU since some of the project are supervised and co-funded by European authorities) is the increase of popularity and authoritativeness of such entities in the field of e-government (where Estonia is widely recognised as pioneer). This brings also investors, students and tourists from abroad, not forcefully linked to the State missions of the government to the eGA.
More specifically on the themes treated by eGA, criteria firstly mentioned by the Estonian government (and consequently by the academy) are recognized worldwide as pillars of the e-government. This is the cyber security approach, the eID cards as well as the digital signature. The development of common standards is also implemented with various projects, like the cooperation with Norway and the European cloud initiative.
The Tallinn Conference 2016 edition hosted 35 countries’ representatives for discussing the best practices on e-government and the next steps and ideas for the future. The main results brought to Estonia and to the other countries can be figured out by the long list of finished projects fundable in the website of the eGA. They include all the domains of activity listed in the implementation of the initiative, both in Estonia (where the academy keeps on having its privileged area of idea’s incubator) and worldwide.
Some examples linked to Estonia are the participatory budget in the city of Tartu (where some of the budget is allocated directly to ideas coming from the citizens) and the eVoting procedures signed by the 6 most important parties of Estonia.
The evaluation of e-government capacity in Sao Tome or the development and implementation of a national cyber security assessment methodology in Moldova are interesting examples from all over the world. This expansion is also due to the agreements signed with the African e-government Foundation, to accompany many of the linked countries in the steps of digitalization.