Estonia is a very small country – about 1.3 million people live on 17 000 square miles (45000 sq km).
The largest city Tallinn has a population of about 400 000 – all other cities are smaller than 100 000 people.
Our better known neighbours include Finland to the north, Sweden to the west and Russia to the east.
Cool things about Estonia that you didn’t know
Let’s be honest – there is about a 99% chance that you don’t know anything about Estonia, but here is a list of things that make us unique and show just how advanced technologically we are.
From the year 2000 all Estonian government’s hearings are entirely paper free. The members of the government still have gatherings but all documents are held entirely online. If it is necessary to pass a new law it can be signed digitally.
ID-cards and Electronical signatures
All Estonians have an ID-card with a small chip that can be used to give electronic signatures. An Estonian can pretty much do every bureaucratic procedure online – this includes filing your taxes which is entirely web based and takes about 5 minutes. All relevant information is pre-entered into the tax forms – you just need to check if everything is OK.
Estonia is the first country in the world to have a unique system where every citizen can make suggestions for changing laws online. Other Estonians can vote if they like the suggestion and in the end the government has to consider carefully whether or not this suggestion can be implemented. You can basically change a law with one single post online.
Estonia is the first country in the world to have successfully implemented national e-voting. A person wanting to give his vote to his favorite candidate online needs to have his ID-card that he uses to identify himself. A person can change his vote for as many times as he likes until the deadline.
Secure voting with mobile phones has already been used in smaller scale and there is a debate whether we should have mobile voting in addition to online voting.
Estonia is entirely covered with wireless internet. We have free wireless internet access in every gas station and in every cafe that hopes to have any visitors. In fact, it is very difficult to find a place where there is no free public wireless internet access! The many wireless networks that cover the whole country include 3G, 3.5G, WiMax and CDMA.
Estonia is the only country in the world where internet access is a basic human right. (Yes we have a law for that).
98% of people use online banking. Nobody uses checks.
Glimpse of World War 3
Being too wired can also have some negative aspects. In May 2007 Estonia became the first country in the world to become under a country wide cyber attack. The attack was headed from Russia with millions of computers around the world bombarding Estonian media, government and banking websites. Many of them become temporarily unavailable. Luckily for us – Estonia is the home of the cyber defense headquarters of NATO.
Estonia was the first country to implement mobile parking tickets. You drive to the center of the city, park your car and dial a special number or send a text message. If you are done parking just call the number again. The money is taken directly from your bank account or added to your phone bill. If you are a fan of public transport you can of course buy a bus ticket with your phone or transfer money to your friends bank account just by dialing a special phone number. There are almost no regular parking meters.
Estonia is also the birthplace for such famous software as Kazaa and Skype. The best days of the file sharing software Kazaa are already over, but the free internet based voice chat program Skype was sold to eBay for $4.1 billion.
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