E-state preparing to conquer the world

Marten Kaevats.

PHOTO: Madis Veltman

If everything goes to plan, the World Health Organization will adopt the Estonian X-Road system that serves as the foundation of our digital state. The instrument could become a part of global data governance through the United Nations in the future.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas and Director General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom met over video link on Tuesday and said in a joint press release that Estonia will launch digital cooperation with the WHO. People from the Government Office told Postimees the plan is anything but modest and rather constitutes the global breakthrough the Estonian e-state has been waiting for.

“In terms of exporting the digital state or sharing Estonia’s experience, a larger project that this cannot be fathomed,” said Marten Kaevats, digital adviser for the Government Office.

He did not hold back when talking about potential developments, referring to cooperation as the opportunity of a century. “This is clearly a lifelong project as we are talking about reimagining the entire planet’s data communications and the legal framework that surrounds it.”

What does cooperation entail? A number of Estonian and Finnish software developers have formed a sort of consortium to develop a data governance system based on dispersed data communication for the WHO. Kaevats lists Guardtime, Nortal, Helmes, Gofore, Roxnet, the E-State Academy and many other Estonian and Finnish companies.

The adviser said that it all started about a year ago when he attended one of the world’s biggest humanistic AI conferences in Geneva. Kaevats got in touch with Soumya Swaminathan, the new head of research for the WHO, and has now become a member of the organization’s digital health technology advisory body – a high-level group of experts that advises the WHO and its director general in matters of digital healthcare.

“Put simply, I decided right away that as I’m no health expert, my role was to export the X-Road,” Kaevats said. “The problem on the international level today is that everyone is working on their own thing, there are many isolated silos that do not form a whole. What we are proposing is an integral digital data governance plan, complete with necessary tools and methods. That said, we are not exporting technology but rather data governance principles. We are trying to show that a dispersed data architecture such as what is used by our X-Road can be used by international organizations,” Kaevats explained.

He considers it a win that while the WHO’s work plans did not include interoperability of systems as recently as last October, it has now become a keyword of the organization’s strategy.

While a pilot project is already in the works, it constitutes a test with which to prove the concept works at this time. Once the dispersed use of data principle makes its mark, the next logical step would be to take the dispersed data architecture solution to the UN apparatus.