Monday, September 2, 2019

How Did Estonia Become More American Than America? By Investing In Blockchain

 “I should have called the Estonians when we were setting up our health care website.”               
                       -Barack Obama

Estonia has become the American dream. The country offers its citizens something it seems Americans can only dream about (we are always dreaming). Blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin, has made the American dream of liberty, freedom and democracy a reality...in Estonia. 

When the world thinks democracy, they think 'America'. They may not think 'United States', but they do think America. That's because America is an ideal, not a place. Like bitcoin, the goal of America is freedom through democratized power; that is, power of the people. I write about this connection in the post: Bitcoin & America Have Common Goals: They Are Linked By The Ideal of Democracy. When I wrote the post I had no idea that a country like Estonia existed. Its discovery has had my attention ever since. And, one thing has been made clear in my research -- Estonia is more American than America. How did this happen?

 

Estonia's digitization


Estonia’s digitization began in 1991. Just after the break-up of the Soviet Union, Estonia restored its independent statehood from the USSR. It was a poor country with little in the way of infrastructure, so it decided to use technology as a way to leverage its scarce resources.  Now, Estonia is using blockchain technology to create the world's most democratized country. I'm going to use the rest of this post to explain how.

First, let me introduce blockchain.

Blockchain is the underlying technology used to create bitcoin, but as Estonia is showing the world, it can be used for many other things. 

At its heart, blockchain technology is 'trust' technology. It comes with a decision framework that replaces trust with consensus. The decision framework within blockchain builds a consensus based on a network of all users rather than a centralized control system. As a result, there is no need for trust. Governance decisions are made by consensus and all data exchanged is protected through encryption (crypto). Put another way, the system is naturally democratized rather than centralized. In this way, it is also self-sustaining. So, when you hear about a system being converted to blockchain, it means the system is being taken from a centralized to a democratized decision framework.

Easy implementation: Digital ID


So how does all this work? Well, every Estonian is issued a digital ID. Much more than a legal photo ID, the digital ID has been "blockchained". That is, it's been democratized on a blockchain platform that uses a 2048-bit public key encryption.

Estonia has been issuing digital IDs for the past two decades. The ID serves as:
  •     a fully encrypted digital passport for Estonian citizens traveling within the EU
  •     a national health insurance card
  •     identification when logging into bank accounts
  •     a proxy for digital signatures
  •     a proxy for i-Voting (public voting occurs online)
  •     a way to check medical records, submit tax claims, etc. (filing a tax return takes less than five minutes)
  •     a way to use e-Prescriptions
The card doesn't just make life easier for Estonia's citizens, it also saves a great deal of time for the government which translates into real savings and a boost to GDP. 

According to a report by PWC, Estonia saves over 1400 years of working time and 2% of GDP annually through its digitized public services. Today, 99% of public services are available to citizens as e-services. Since all transactions are made on a general ledger secured by blockchain-based time-stamping, you also know if someone other than you has accessed your records.  

This leads me to perhaps the most important aspect of Estonia's digitization process -- you own your data. The data may be in Estonia's database, but it belongs to you. You have the right to know and control what happens to the data. In other words, sitting behind the automated governing body is a legal framework that ensures responsible use. Your digital ID (online signature, security, and rights) is protected by law and data integrity is ensured by blockchain technology.

Kersti Kaljulaid
For those that think issuing a digital ID requires a massive financial commitment, you are wrong. A central tenant of the Estonian digitization strategy is the use of cheap technology. Which is to say, this isn't an effort that requires massive fundraising. 

According to Kersti Kaljulaid, "Cheap, common technology that is inclusively used by society as a whole brings much greater benefits than exclusive ones only accessible to upwardly mobile populations." She would know. She is also the fifth and current President of Estonia (in office since October 2016).

Estonia is not alone


Estonia isn't the only country to see the digital light. Germany has given its citizens an ID card with a digital chip, and Finland has joined Estonia on the same data-exchange platform. There are also amazing things happening in Africa, with widespread usage of mobile payments and different practical applications for farmers in Rwanda and Senegal. To read more about the trend in Africa and the Middle East see: Can Digital Currency (Bitcoin / M-Pesa) Wipe Out World-Wide Corruption & Poverty?


Meanwhile, the U.S. is trying to ban bitcoin. The current administration believes bitcoin is a national threat, but I believe banning bitcoin is the national threat and you can read more about my prediction for the U.S. if it bans bitcoin here

It's time for a new paradigm


Named ‘the most advanced digital society in the world’ by Wired, Estonians have Trumped us. We are so far behind the Estonians it's "tremendously" ridiculous (I'm channeling Trump now). If we were to find our way to the highest digital mountain in America, we still wouldn't be able to see the digital dust left by the Estonians. It's that bad.

It's so bad, that Estonians have actually come to expect better services from government than they do from the private sector. 

I don't know where you're from, but think about that. It's hard to comprehend if you're American. This is the American ideal, yes, but we've been told there's no money for anything but war. We're still trying to figure out what happened to trillions of dollars in lost funds (Mark Skidmore, a professor of economics at Michigan State University, found that $21 trillion in unsupported adjustments had been reported -- that’s about $65,000 for every American).  

It's time for Americans to stop dreaming. We need to take our name back from the dollar, adopt bitcoin, and overhaul the government with blockchain technology. 

The revolution is digital...

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