You may be forgiven for not knowing a lot about Estonia, the currency, flag, language and even global position are unknown for a lot of people. But those who are fans of the Kroon spending Estonian speaking Northern Baltic country will know that they are surprisingly ahead of the times in regard to their embracing and acceptance of technology.
Admittedly I am not talking in terms of technological advancement, or the vast manufacture of advanced products I am talking of the way in which technology is used and in this case within democracy.
Last year Estonia became the first country to allow their parliamentary votes to be cast over the Internet, something that made voting more accessible and easier for people resulting in a high turnout. Obviously many people raised the issue of security and protested that the system could easily be hacked into and changed. However they were proved wrong and the election was a success (especially for the Estonian Reform Party who got the most votes).
The only obvious step then was forwards, so not only will you be able to vote over the internet in the 2011 Estonian general election, but you will also be able to vote by phone. This will be done through a system of free authorised chips which will verify the identity of the owner and allow your vote to be cast through the electronic voting system.
Again many security issues have been raised, but the authorities retain that it is 100% secure, and that it will prove to be as successful as the internet scheme. Raul Kaidro, spokesman of the SK Certification Centre, which issues personal ID cards in Estonia, said that this scheme was “the most secure way to authenticate digital signatures.” He added that this will be the first of its kind, but that (disregarding water) neighbouring Finland and Sweden also have the capacity for this kind of scheme.
I suppose the most important point we can take form this is: will we be seeing this in the UK soon? The answer is, almost undoubtedly, no. At the very least the government will want to wait to see the success of Estonia’s election before committing themselves to this, which is in three years, but of course there will be more expensive research and set up before it will go ahead. However I think that even then it will be unlikely because of security.
No disrespect to Estonia, but they aren’t as big a military and economic power as the UK, so the election in the UK involves more money and attention therefore is “more important”. Unfortunately this also means that there is more money and vested interest for people to hack the system, and the larger the country the more likely this is.
So don’t expect to see phone voting this side of Europe for a while, but lets not forget our eastern friends and you have to admire the forward thinking of Estonia with this. Good on them, steps like this is what brings the world forward.
Source – Associated Press