Estonian offers Finland option to use its state data exchange layer, the X-Road (X-tee) solution, allowing the creation of common electronic services. The initial pilot projects will commence next year, as data will start to be exchanged between tax boards and social insurance agencies.
The goal being the principle that people should not have to repeatedly submit data, when operating in one of the countries, which they have already filed in the other. Thus, for instance, entrepreneurs will no longer have to prove, in both states, the absence of tax arrears; also, those desiring to officially work in Finland will no longer have to submit, every year, the paper copy of pension insurance certificate there.
«We will also be looking for overlapping services in other areas,» assured Siim Sikkut, information and communications technology adviser at strategic bureau of Government Office. Mr Sikkut added that, in the future, medicine might be purchased in Finland with Estonian digital prescriptions. In the same way, people’s health data might travel between doctors across the bay.
Sharing and joint development of X-Road solution is prescribed by cooperation memorandum, signed yesterday by Estonian and Finnish prime ministers. To our knowledge, this was the first international agreement in the world which was signed digitally. By that time, the ID-card standard software’s new version was completed, enabling to sign documents by the Finnish ID-card.
According to PM Andrus Ansip, the digital way of doing things has, in Estonia, become so common that one would not imagine running from one institution to another, paper documents in hand. According to him, this has helped save time by a working week in a year, equalling two percent of GDP.
Even though the single-data-submitting principle has been decided for the entire EU, Mr Ansip said Estonia, as well as Finland, are the pioneers of the field.
As Estonian-Finnish cooperation gains traction, it is hoped that the X-Road model will attract interest in the rest of the Baltic Sea region, and thereafter elsewhere in Europe. Among other things, this might, in turn, open up new business opportunities for IT-companies from both Estonia and Finland.
In Estonia, close to 200 organisations are offering their daily services over X-Road, the option used by over 900 organisations. Every day, over 800,000 enquiries are made via X-Road. For example, the X-Road is travelled by documents and letters of agencies, population register enquiries, and health insurance fund data.