Estonia has by far the most highly-developed national ID card system in the world.
Much more than simply a legal picture ID, the mandatory national card serves as the digital access card for all of Estonia’s secure e-services.
The chip on the card carries embedded files which, using 2048-bit public key encryption, enable it to be used as definitive proof of ID in an electronic environment.
Here are some examples of how the ID Card is regularly used in Estonia:
- As a national ID card for legal travel within the EU for Estonian citizens
- As the national health insurance card
- As proof of identification when logging into bank accounts from a home computer
- As a pre-paid public transport ticket in Tallinn and Tartu
- For digital signatures
- For i-voting
- For accessing government databases to check one’s medical records, file taxes, etc.
- For picking up e-Prescriptions
Because e-Estonia’s infrastructure is an open system, new services can always be integrated. Businesses can freely use the digital signature system as well, and have applied it to a variety of web-based services.
Estonia boasts one of the world’s most advanced digital signature systems thanks to two crucial developments:
- In March 2000, Parliament passed a law giving electronic signatures the same legal weight as traditional paper signatures.
- The nation’s groundbreaking electronic ID infrastructure has created an effective and universal system for secure identification.
When a website offers the digital signature option:
- The user has entered the information to be signed (tax declaration, ballot choices, contracts, etc.).
- The site asks the user if they would like to digitally sign the information.
- If the user clicks ‘yes’, a window from a third-party Certificate Center pops up, asking for the PIN codes connected to the user’s electronic ID Card.
- The Certificate Center verifies the codes and sends a confirmation back to the website.