According to agreement signed some weeks ago, Estonia and Finland will be the first two nations in Europe to develop a joint data exchange platform to make digital services mutually accessible for inhabitants.
Finland and Estonia on joint X-Road starting November
The first tangible result of the agreement will be that this very year Finland and Estonia will adopt the latest version of the data exchange layer X-Road. In Estonia the entire process is pulled by Information System Authority (RIA), and in Finland by VRK – Population Register Centre subject to finance ministry.
«The initial phase of creation of data exchange layer based on X-Road will be concluded in November 2015,» VRK project manager Eero Konttaniemi confirmed yesterday. The X-Road adopted will be basis for entre Finnish e-state architecture.
RIA deputy director-general Katrin Reinhold said the development is significant as in addition to improvement e-services cooperation between Estonia and Finland, international services may be built on it.
«Not limited to further developing X-Road together, we are already planning the next mutual steps. We are agreeing about new requirements and are harmonizing these, distributing tasks, testing the stuff etc,» explained Ms Reinhold.
Also, RIA and VRK plan to unite in building a better knowhow for organisations using the X-Road. The nations will not move money between themselves as the systems are largely created with help from EU structural funds. The outcome of the cooperation will be joint property of both.
Once the common X-Road is launched, agencies and local governments in both nations will interface their databases and e-services with it. Thereafter, data will travel between the systems in Estonia and Finland.
Mr Konttaniemi said there are already 15 Finnish state agencies who have this year launched developments to make their data available on X-Road central base.
«In the initial phase, three to five major databases and information systems will gain connection to Kansallinen palveluväylä (name of the Finnish X-Road – edit),» he specified.
In all likelihood, the inhabitants of the two nations will be offered the services at the end of 2016 – latest – as the Finnish side will complete its public e-services viewing project, including total switch from their current citizens portal suomi.fi.
As the new system is launched, every Estonian citizen should be able to view his tax data stored in Finnish databases, file applications and declarations, submit admission applications to universities, and whatnot – including digital prescriptions issued in Estonia valid in Finnish pharmacies. The same would be available for Finnish citizens in Estonia.
Ms Reinhold said that with eyes on the future, Estonian ID-card base software features international support for Finnish ID-cards. «If the software were activated, we could already do digital signatures in our systems with Finnish ID-cards,» she said.
Meanwhile, Finland did not make ID-cards mandatory for its citizens so the current users may amount to a couple of hundred thousand.
The talk about joint X-Road date back for several years as people from Estonian e-Health Foundation and RIA travelled to Finland to have talks on that to their colleagues. Thus, in December 2013, then Prime Ministers Andrus Ansip and Jyrki Katainen entered an IT-cooperation memorandum with joint X-Road development as a keyword.
Thereafter, in mid-2014, Finland triggered its national programme to create a central architecture for digital services.
From the very beginning, the Finnish eyes were fixed on Estonia’s successful X-Road and its outlet eesti.ee. Following the agreement between heads of governments, Estonia promptly begun to develop the new X-Road version 6.0 providing technical basis for information to travel between the two nations.
According to RIA, even entrepreneurs operating in Latvia have started to discuss options to use e-services in Latvia.
X-Road, used in Estonia since 2001, is a layer of services to organise data exchange between agencies, granting citizens and public servants access to state databases as one integrated entity. In Estonia, over a million queries for information are submitted via X-Road daily.
1999 – initial vision birthed
December 12th 2001 – initial version launched
December 12th 2013 – Estonian and Finnish prime ministers enter IT-developments memorandum
June 2015 – RIA and VRK begin cooperation to develop joint X-Road
Over 3,000 services provided, 1,149 organisations involved, and nearly 200 databases included
591,000 queries in 2003, close to 409,000,000 in 2014