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Toomas Ilves: Lessons in digital democracy from Estonia

The former president of Estonia discusses how a small Baltic state became a world leader in digitization of everything from voting to medicine.

A silhouette map of Estonia

How did Estonia become a leader in cybersecurity and uses of the internet for processes of democracy? | iStock/bgblue

Of the many nations that have implemented some measure of digital democracy, none perhaps has had more success than Estonia.

Toomas Ilves, a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, would know: He served as president of the Baltic state for two terms. Ilves says that all Estonians have verifiable digital identities and they use them to vote, sign legal documents, order prescription medication, file taxes and more online.

Estonian digitization began with schools and banking in the 1990s. Online voting followed in the early 2000s. Today, a third of Estonians vote online. Faith in the system is high, Ilves says. The country has a single voter registry and voters can confirm — and even change — their votes right up to the deadline. Estonia’s latest effort is a comprehensive genome project that will fuel a new era of personalized medicine.

Join host Russ Altman and former Estonian President Toomas Ilves for a broad conversation about the challenges and the promise of digital democracy.

You can listen to the Future of Everything on Sirius XM Insight Channel 121iTunesSoundCloud and Stanford Engineering Magazine.