The same day the government here in the U.S. decided to take our free and open internet away from us and gift it to a few giant corporations, I was reading a really interesting look at Estonia’s effort to become a “Digital Republic.” Estonia has embraced an entirely different way of thinking about the internet and innovation. There, citizens can vote, challenge parking tickets and transfer medical histories to their doctors all online. The court system has been unburdened thanks to video conferencing and other technologies. And people seem generally happy about the role of government and technology in their lives.
Even though I'm deeply skeptical of technology, I can't help but think: Damn we could really learn something from them. Instead in the U.S. right now, there's nothing but anxiety when it comes to technology. Startup founders, small business owners and bloggers—like yours truly—are now wondering how to compete on a system of pipes owned by giant telecom interests.
You may be wondering about security and privacy concerns in Estonia though, as I did. Well, from the article:
“A tenet of the Estonian system is that an individual owns all information recorded about him or her. Every time a doctor (or a border guard, a police officer, a banker, or a minister) glances at (someone’s) secure data online, that look is recorded and reported. Peeping at another person’s secure data for no reason is a criminal offense. ‘In Estonia, we don’t have Big Brother; we have Little Brother,’ a local told me. ‘You can tell him what to do and maybe also beat him up.’”
Though my favorite line from the piece has to be this very relevant quote from Estonia’s deputy secretary for economic development. “We believe that innovation happens anyway. If we close ourselves off, the innovation happens somewhere else.”
Sadly, here in the U.S. we've chosen to let innovation happen somewhere else.
*This post originally appeared in the Hand & Eye Newsletter. You can subscribe here.