It’s fair to say people have better things to do than visit government offices and fill out paper forms — in Estonia the government agrees.
When Estonia became an independent nation back in 1991 and began building its information society there was no digital data being collected about it citizens.
The general population did not have the internet or devices or which to use it. In 1997, it became an e-government and since then has moved most of its government services online from taxes, to roads, voting and a digital ID.
Its wedding services and property transfers are still done face-to-face, for obvious reasons.
Taavi Rõivas was the Estonian prime minister between 2014 and 2016. During his tenure he oversaw e-residency, which is described as a “transnational digital identity that can provide anyone, anywhere with the opportunity to succeed as an entrepreneur.”
Basically, e-residents receive a government issued digital ID and full access to Estonia’s public e-services. This enables them to establish a trusted EU business with all of the tools necessary to conduct a global business.
Rõivas spoke to the audience at the ADMA Global Forum last week about the digital society he helped create but more importantly how Australia should be more open minded when it comes to the contentious topic of My Health Record.
He noted the positive aspects of having easy access to your health records, “If you have a nationwide electronic health record where every data about you is saved, you could go to a doctor in Melbourne and authorise them to see your health record by going there.
“For you as a patient it is saving time, it is saving stress and it might save your life if you are in an acute situation you might not have time to re-do all the tests.”
The 39-year-old ex-prime minister addressed the obvious question of: “what if big brother was looking at our records?” He reassured the audience that when putting together the system they added an extra component called “the patient’s portal”.
He explained, “I login to the system with my mobile or ID card and I can have a look at who has looked at my health data at any given time.”
Rõivas said if someone was looking at his records who isn’t supposed to, he can see who it is and when they did it, leaving a “cyber fingerprint”. He said users can also decide what they want their GP to see adding extra privacy to their data.
Australians have until November to opt-out of Australia’s e-health initiative, otherwise a digital health record will be created for them. Privacy advocates and politicians on both sides of politics have raised concerns over the system’s security standards.
Citizens are riled up about the risk their information could be hacked or accessed by third parties. In July that fear was brought home when Singapore’s online health system was hacked, compromising the personal information of 1.5 million citizens – including the prime minister’s.
My Health Record is currently the subject of a senate inquiry which will examine the vulnerability of the system and the ability for third parties such as law enforcement, insurance companies or researchers to access the database.
Of course when question time came around a marketer asked if companies could access the database of Estonian citizens and Rõivas assured the audience that the whole point of this system is that no one can take a look at another person’s data – a disappointing day for the marketing community.