You’ve all heard about the stories of Estonia as the e-society like E-stonia: The EU’s digital pioneer? or Not only Skype or ‘This is so freaking huge man, it’s insane’: The plan to let anyone become European – digitally or Why Estonia Has Started Teaching Its First-Graders To Code or Is Estonia leading the way for cybersecurity? or in Chinese: 遇見未來城市 愛沙尼亞E革命 躍身科技強國 but have you ever wondered where could it all lead up to?
These stories are inspiring and as a member of this society I fully enjoy the benefits of the system (I truly could not imagine my life without the digital ID-card any more). But what makes my curiosity even bigger is to imagine where this kind of e-society could lead to.
Lately I heard a very inspiring presentation from Estonian ICT Export Cluster (the ones responsible for coordinating the e-society infrastructure) and the background of the whole system. Without getting into technical details it is worth mentioning that the backbone of the e-society is something that they call X-road or the root platform that everything in the e-society is built upon. Without the X-road every new innovation would have to be built separately and would be extremely expensive (this is one of the reasons actually why so many countries have failed to achieve the amount of innovation similar to Estonia).
X-Road is mostly open source platform meaning that the next big innovation could also come out of a company or a startup – for example using big data you could build a real estate website that has the information about every single square meter of the land of Estonia. X-Road offers literally unlimited possibilities for innovation containing the public information of every single citizen of Estonia (+ about 10 million virtual citizens in the future).
Getting back to innovations that the government is planning in the near future I also noticed one other big project that might not hit the international headlines (being not so sexy) but is still equally important to highlight. It is the plan to bring the whole X-road data to the cloud by building “Data Embassies” all around the world meaning actual server rooms in different friendly partner states that will have the same laws as the real embassies – basically being a territory of Estonia.
What it actually means is that if you would drop an atomic bomb to the country and destroy everything on the land of Estonia, it would have absolutely no effect on the X-road or to any of the data the whole e-society contains.
Estonians are very adventurous people – there are considered to be more Estonians living abroad than there are in Estonia, plus a huge amount travelling (mostly because of the weather) and working abroad in any specific moment. So indeed, if Estonia would be fully destroyed (or occupied) the X-Road, the E-society, and really the country of Estonia could continue in full functionality in the cloud lead by the citizens and the ~10 million digital citizens living outside the territory of Estonia.
Now this is big. Together with all the other E-society innovations (digital identity, digital elections, digital government, digital business management etc), it basically means that a country could become immortal. It is like Estonian way of saying “screw you Russia!” … or Germany, Denmark, Sweden (the countries that have occupied Estonia in the past) or others that might be interested. A psychologist could say that this is their way to deal with the history of 750 years of slavery and is thus their unconscious fear of losing the freedom again — immortality being the ultimate manifestation for freedom.
If other countries will follow in the future (and they will sooner or later) this means that any kind of physical army and military looses its point, fully! Imagine a country that will spend billions of dollars to invade another country and getting nothing in return because the whole country, economy and money is virtual. Well yes, you could get some natural resources (which Estonia basically doesn’t have) but the value of these are also getting significantly smaller in the future. Can total world peace be our inevitable future?