Ecosystem Deep Dives #5: Estonia - "Back to the Future"
The start-up ecosystem in the world's most digitally advanced country.
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Survival of the fittest
Estonia’s history is a start-up story in it of itself. Left with the task of building a country from scratch after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Estonia was constructed following start-up principles: iteration, efficiency and technology. With a tiny population of 1.3 million and a scarcity of natural resources, the country quickly understood that its wealth would come directly from its people. The question then became: how do we make this country as efficient as possible to give our population the best chance to succeed?
Efficiency, the government rapidly understood, would come in the form of technological advancement. In the 1990's, the Estonian government launched the so-called "Tiger Leap program" aimed at digitizing the country's education system. By 2000, the country declared internet access to be a basic human right. That spirit of digitalization permeated throughout Estonian society, and in 2021, Estonia was declared the most "digitally advanced society" by Wired magazine. Some 99% of all government services in Estonian are done online, from voting to tax filings. Estonian officials even provide advice to other countries such as New Zealand to help with their own switch to e-governance. Today, "every Estonian has a mandatory electronic ID, which acts as a legal document and provides digital access to Estonia’s e-services such as banking, tax returns, voting and prescriptions."