Introduction to Estonia:
Estonia is a very appropriate example of an information society. More interesting is the fact that, it bypassed the industrial phase to reach here. We are in a point of time where preservation of what is remaining of the natural resources we have is a must. Industrial phase was more like a trend to pass through to have a developed society but then the trade-off is the natural resources. Estonia managed to have a highly technological architecture without trading off its resources and hence, setting a trend of its own. Almost all the basic services that citizens and the government bodies use are made online. One of the main reason for this is the architecture of the database system that Estonia followed. Instead of having a centralized database repository , it opted to a decentralized system of components with there own databases and services, all linked together. Modification and advancement of this kind of flexible system was relatively easier, which accelerated the development process for Estonia.
The components of digital society of Estonia:
As mentioned earlier all the basic services used by government bodies and citizens are in the clouds. It has completely changed the way and the perception of doing things and getting things done for both parties. The aspects that have major benefits from the concept of digital society are listed below:
- BUSINESS : Gone are those days when Estonians had to run around with legal papers to register a new company. The online business registration service allows Estonians and even Europeans from Belgium, Portugal, Lithuania and Finland with a valid cross-border digital signature. They claim to have a potential user-base of up to 20 millions! As the numbers suggest, the ease of business registration is attracting a lot of entrepreneurs. This case study is one of the many success stories relevant to this domain. Furthermore , taxes can be paid and the information related to taxes can be accessed within minutes using the e-Tax service. These services bring a strong sense of confidence in investors and facilitates running business for entrepreneurs in Estonia.
- QUALITY OF LIFE: Health services , security , welfare-benefits, taxation , voting , education services are all online. Imagine the number of social interactions that are all done online now, by the citizens. If we only calculate the amount of energy saved just from transportation, we can easily infer how advantageous it is for our time.
- GOVERNANCE : “You cannot bribe a computer”, says the President of Estonia, Mr.Toomas Hendrik Ilves. E-governance, online voting and online taxation system removes the human element from the equation;the human element that can be bribed, that is greedy and mean. This has lead to a very transparent system of governance and also a very efficient one as well. And the coolest of all, the e-cabinet system. Ministers interact and communicate with each others using this platform. An agenda to discussed upon is put forward in which the ministers can either agree, object or want to talk about. If no one objects, the agenda is passed unanimously. No more long talks no more unnecessary discussions needed.
- ENERGY: Smart-Grid system developed by the entrepreneurs and the software industry people provides services like real-time energy consumption measurement ,metering, comparing various energy packages available. The best of the services provided is the option to choose the amount of energy that one will receive from renewable resources. This by default increases the responsibility of citizen towards energy conservation.
Nepal was open to the outer world only after 1950’s. That being said, the country was totally unaware / untouched / unaffected by the industrial revolution. Majority of the population still resides in villages. Due to geographical complexities, all the 75 districts of Nepal were within the reach of internet only after the introduction of ADSL. The government had not realized or may be was not stable enough to realize the importance of e-services until recently. The following are the online services available in Nepal:
- Company Registration: The service was started from the year 2012. As the name suggests,it allows users to register a new company. The limitation of this service is that the registration process is active only during office hours and only on work days. This has at least cut short all the hassle an entrepreneur or a business person had to go through, had it not been there. The platform informs that data from all the paper based registrations are still being added. It seems to be in a immature phase and will take some time to grow into full potential (that is if the government body maintains it effectively).
- Online Driving License: The online driving license service is a recent initiative from the government. The platform is under construction (and no one is sure how long it will be having that status). As per the marketing, through this platform the users can apply for driving license, book a trail day and and view the taxation amount. Payment is not possible since online payment systems in Nepal is still in a very early phase.
- Public service commission: This is the body of the government which is responsible for the intake of civil servants (excluding army). The online platform provides users the benefits of being updated with the current news from every corner of the country (excluding those that are not in the reach of computers or internet or both). It also provides downloadable forms for the application of service in the government.
Apart from these, most of the government organization have a website for themselves which is not so well maintained and not so inviting. Comparing the online services to Estonia would not be possible in any way as Nepal is still far far away in terms of technological advancement. The government is trying to emphasize more into the intake of more IT employees and also the trend of setting low budget for IT is changing (but in a snail-pace). The country can learn a lot from Estonia since it still has not reached in its industrial phase yet. Estonia’s success story could do some badly needed magic trick to make the country technologically advanced.