E-stonia: a trailblazer in technology
CYBER-SAVVY Estonia has taken yet another step forward in global technology, as the small Baltic state is set to open the world’s first data embassy in Luxembourg early next year.
The heavily protected server room will contain important Estonian e-government data, so that the NATO and eurozone members can access it even when systems are down at home.
“Data security and cyber security are generally crucial from the perspective of both people’s confidence and the functioning of services,” Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas said. “It is also an important part of so-called daily digital hygiene in digitizing societies.”
Ratas released the statement after signing an agreement with his Luxembourg counterpart Xavier Bettel on housing Estonian data there.
“This is the first data embassy in the world,” said Ratas, whose small country of 1.3 million has been dubbed E-stonia for being a trailblazer in technology.
After five decades of Soviet rule ended in 1991, Estonia opted to go hi-tech as fast as possible, and still outstrips other members of the European Union, which it joined in 2004. One of the most connected countries in the world, the Baltic state has made most public services accessible at a special state portal and even pioneered e-voting in 2005.
Its capital Tallinn hosts the NATO cyber-defence center, where data experts from Europe and the United States work to protect the information networks of the alliance’s 29 member states.
Work on using international cloud services to back up Estonia’s e-government data began in 2014, when the country joined forces with Microsoft to try storing a state gazette on the cloud.
The data embassy in Luxembourg will back up information regarding taxes, land, businesses, identity documents, pensions, legislation and the census.
“The virtual data embassy’s main goal is to guarantee the country’s digital continuity: the capacity to start the systems when necessary and retrieve data from externally stored versions,” said Emilie Toomela, spokeswoman for the ministry of economics and communication.
“For this, Estonia needs additional server resources that should be completely controlled by Estonia — this means that they should be subject to the same clauses as Estonia’s physical embassies (e.g. immunity) — but should be situated outside Estonia,” she said.