France and Estonia strengthen digital cooperation

Most administrative procedures can be done online in Estonia [Farknot Architect/Shutterstock]

Paris and Tallinn have signed an e-government agreement to combat cyberattacks and develop the digital economy. EURACTIV’s partner La Tribune reports.

There are three chapters to the agreement signed on March 19 by Mounir Mahjoubi, French Secretary of State in charge of Digital Affairs, and Urve Palo, Estonian Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology: digital governance, digital economy, and cybersecurity. It also mentions the possibility of “sharing existing technical solutions”, “organising [joint] events”, setting up “pilot projects” and increasing “expert visits”. Each country will have to appoint an advisor by the end of the month.

Estonia and France also want to develop “partnerships” between start-ups from both countries. They also claim to want to “coordinate” on European issues related to digital policy.

Estonia used its presidency of the European Council last year to initiate a debate on the taxation of US web giants Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple and a roadmap on the introduction of 5G across the EU.

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In Estonia 99% of administrative procedures are done online.

Interviewed by La Tribune, the Estonian Minister, Urve Palo said that “France and Estonia have much to learn” from each other, adding that her country could help France to implement e-administration.

“In Estonia, with the exception of marriages, divorces and real estate purchase, all administrative procedures are done online. Everything is faster and you don’t lose time trying to gather all the necessary documents and moving around. Thanks to this, we save the equivalent of 2% of GDP per year, “she added.

According to her, France is particularly interested in the platform set up in Estonia that allows institutions, administrations and public services to store and exchange information among them. This makes them more efficient, as it prevents individuals and business from having to provide the same document multiple times for different purposes.

“Our whole system is based on trust”

In terms of cybersecurity, Palo believes that France and Estonia have every interest in joining forces. “Our whole system is based on trust: it is fundamental. If tomorrow citizens would come to fear that their information and personal data could fall into the wrong hands, they would stop using online services.” In 2007, in the midst of a dispute with Moscow, Tallinn came under massive cyberattacks that blocked several government sites and services.

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Estonia took the digital turn in 1991, and the Baltic State’s leaders quickly saw digital technology as a means of developing effective public services.

95% of the Estonian population declares their taxes online – such a platform will only start in France in 2019. In 2001, Estonia also developed a digital identity card, now owned by 98% of the population.

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