For years Mark Verhijde has been involved in citizen participation. His company has advised innumerable government institutions on the subject. He shuns hefty policy proposals though, preferring to set up grassroots schemes which actively involve people. In 2015 Mark was involved in the project Open Government Europe, an exchange programme which brought together people from diverse European regions to consider open government. Mark travelled to Estonia, a country that so inspired him that he set up a new company, Estonian School.
Estonia – ICT frontrunner
Estonian citizens do not divulge their personal data or other information to any authority or company. Instead, they retain responsibility for their own online activity. Every person in Estonia has a pass and a code to access his or her own data on the internet. No one can access this data without specific permission from the individual. Misuse of personal information without authorization is a criminal offence. The first steps are being taken to introduce this system in The Netherlands, mostly using Blockchain technology. This has been operating successfully in Estonia for years.
This new approach to IT, connecting online and digital services, is typical of Estonia. Hardly surprising then that Skype is an Estonian invention. Digital access to healthcare and to voting in Estonia is made possible via specially developed software, which means each individual citizen retains ownership of the system. This ensures that the Baltic country is relatively safe from hackers. Mark: “ICT infrastructure to protect citizens was introduced after Estonia became independent in 1991, because the old system was weak and susceptible to hacking. A conscious decision was made to sidestep huge, vulnerable, IT systems which were open to abuse, and provide people with a more easily accessible system. The insight and experience gleaned from this innovative approach to the citizen-authority relationship has spread in recent years, particularly to the so-called ‘new’ democracies.
Estonian School – learning by doing
The Estonian School takes its inspiration from all the innovative ideas and concepts gleaned from e-government in Estonia. At the same time, it offers a broad perspective on all online instruments and methods that are being applied in cities and countries across Europe. It is an international movement of like minds, united in their quest for more governmental transparency in Europe. Together they organise events, workshops and training all over Europe, with Estonia the focus of inspiration.
Estonian School | Mark Verhijde