How Estonia Became a Model for Digital Democracy

On the first episode of the Bloomberg Originals series Exponentially With Azeem Azhar, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas explains the roots of her nation’s tech ascendance.

(Bloomberg) — What if there were a country where politics had yet to be polarized by social media? One where most people not only choose to vote online, but freely provide their personal information to the government? A country that serves as a possible model for how digitalization can be used for something other than misinformation and cyberattacks?

Such a place arguably exists, and its name is Estonia. From government services to taxes and education, the Baltic nation set about transforming itself into a 21st century model for digital democracy soon after the fall of the Soviet Union. On the first episode of the Bloomberg Originals series Exponentially With Azeem Azhar, Azhar sits down with Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, who shares how her government has sought to strengthen Estonian democracy by embracing technology.

Kallas, 46, makes the case that being a digital nation has made Estonia more resilient, especially in the face of an increasingly belligerent Russia, and Azhar examines to what extent its positive experience can offer lessons to the world’s larger and more established democracies. Central to the Baltic nation’s success was getting its 1.3 million people online with digital identities that would allow them to easily access services, Kallas says.

“We introduced digital identities already in 2000 when many didn’t have Internet yet,” she says. “That is leadership from the government side, because people didn’t know that they need digital identities.”

To see more episodes of Exponentially, click here.

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