Estonia: Stakeholder trust and evoting prospects

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One of the premises that set the ground for the full-scale deployment of e-voting in Estonia has been the positive generic status quo of the country’s political environment. Estonia is a new political entity in our globe, a new democracy and its citizenship has every reason to make the best of this golden opportunity they have been given in the last twenty years. So going back to the basic rules  about trust in e-voting, yes the Estonians trust their democracy.

Equally the Estonians trust their government; they have every reason to do so. Estonia is doing great in a series of global indexes , they see their way of life getting better by the year and even got 1st place for internet freedom in 2012 while they are ranked 15th in the UN e-government readiness index. The Estonian Government has invested a lot in the Internet future of the country to achieve these ranking. At the same time the government initialized a sincere relationship with its citizenry. On the e-government spectrum this is demonstrated by the permanent provision of the e-id card to every single citizen to use in all government related processes. It’s like saying “we know that this card can be passed around and be used by some other than its owner, but we trust that you will make lawful use of it”. Unfortunately not many governments around the world can make the same claim.

Finally the Estonian Government has developed a strategic alliance with Cybernetica as their sole technology vendor. One needs a great deal of trust to put all eggs in one basket and the Estonians did so. This is not to wonder. Cybernetica has in fact been part of the Estonian Public Sector for way too long and as such the liaisons were already there. Citizens just have to trust their government on this one as well.

So the Estonian stakeholders all seem to trust one another well enough to take e-voting further for a long time. It all makes a nice introvert picture up to here. So how does the rest of world feel about it? Estonians felt quite confident about their e-voting practices and have been inviting international observers to demonstrate their capacity. But exactly as a result of this openness the rest of the world no longer seem to trust the Estonians as to the validity of their e-voting results. So we come across a new form of trust with regard to e-voting deployments: the global trust expressed towards specific practices and results of any single country. Is there a legal basis to it? I would welcome the contribution a legal expert here but ethically I have to acceptthe claim that has been made about the last EU Parliamentary Elections, which sheds a very different light on the claims from Estonia.

Following the path of opening up to the rest of the world about e-voting, Cybernetica has teamed up with Smartmatic in the creation of an e-voting excellence center based in Estonia. Given the recent doubts expressed about the efficacy of Estonian e-voting practices by international observers, it will be a hard job for them to establish that promised excellence and make it globally acceptable. Let’s all hold back for a while before we develop great expectations about the flourishing prospects of e-voting in Estonia.