Why is your state great

The digital citizen - curse or blessing?

Imagine you are driving a car. While you are driving, a police officer in the car behind you notices that your license plate is dirty. Instead of stopping you, the police officer checks your details and your driver's license online and decides not to stop you. When you arrive at your destination, you view your data and find out not only that a police officer has accessed it, but also the reason for the access.

How does this little story feel for you:

  1. Funny. I feel transparent and don't want the state to be able to access my data at any time.
  2. Fantastic. I have full control over my data and the system allows us to save time and money. Even though the policeman didn't stop me, I know what the problem was and can clean my license plate.
  3. Utopian. No state would introduce such a system and citizens would not accept it.

If you have chosen point 3 for yourself, this article will surely interest you, because this utopian system is loud

Andrew Keen: How to fix the future. Five ways to fix a more human digital world

Already real in Estonia, and the incident described has happened in exactly the same way.

The digital citizen - why do the Estonians trust the digital ID system?

95% of all Estonians have the mandatory electronic ID. This gives access to more than 4,000 services, including taxes and elections. In an impressive way, the small and not exactly rich Estonia shows its neighbors in the EU how a system can be built in which the citizen is digital and trusts the system.

According to our author, the fact that the Estonians trust their state when it comes to digital citizens is due to the fact that the most important aspect of the Estonian ID system is trust, and with this system Estonia is trying to create an economy of trust. The main reason for trusting the system is that citizens have never seen the system being abused. Estonian citizens have full control over their privacy and can see at any time - as in the example with the license plate - who has accessed their data and when. In order for the system to function reliably in the long term, however, it is important that the citizens of Estonia take responsibility and actively control their data.

According to our author, the technology used in Estonia creates trust and is transparent. Authorities have access to citizens' data, and citizens have the right to know what data authorities are accessing. The Estonian goal is: The state should be dependent on the citizens sen.

The digital citizen - trust and real data

At one point our author writes that the Estonians have significantly more confidence in the state than the average citizen of the European Union. As I try to no longer trust data blindly, I checked it and found that our author is right when he writes that in 2014 a full 51% of Estonians trusted their state. Only citizens of Malta and Sweden trusted their state more than the Estonians in 2014, and as far as I know, they do not have a digital ID. However, no country in the European Union achieved a value above 60% in November 2014:

  1. Malta 56%
  2. Sweden 54%
  3. Estonia 51%

In November 2019 these dates look different. Estonia's value is only 43%. The three top countries in terms of civic trust are now:

  1. Luxembourg 68%
  2. Turkey 66%
  3. Denmark 63%

I searched the data on the site randomly and found that the confidence values ​​in Estonia fluctuate greatly from time to time. It is therefore a little difficult for me to use the data as evidence of the trust the Estonian citizens have in their digital state. But since I'm not very good with data, it is best to get your own impression at this point. The interactive bar charts on the page are really very intuitive to use.

According to our author, what is exciting about the 2014 figures is that only 13% of Estonians trust their political parties. If you have an idea how that can be explained, I'll be very happy if you share it with me.


When I first encountered the story of the digital citizen in Estonia, I was on fire. As a digital transformation manager, I think such examples are brilliant because they show what is possible and what positive power and potential there is in digitization.

But when I thought about the digital citizen in Germany, I got thoughtful. I still remember very well the moment when I discovered a sign at the Südkreuz train station in Berlin that informed me that a major test was being carried out here, in which cameras would be used for face recognition. This information was not helpful for me and because I did not know what goal these cameras will pursue in the future, I decided to only enter the station with a scarf in front of my face and a fur hat pulled down over my face for the test period.

At this point I am now wondering why I am excited about the digital system in Estonia and that cameras for facial recognition in Germany tend to scare me. Is it because I don't trust the German system, or is it because the information from this test was not transparent enough for me? Or are the two things just too different to compare? In my opinion, the state in Germany is not (yet) very digital. In many places I have the vague feeling that the state in Germany uses digital instruments more for its own benefit than for the benefit of its citizens. The only specific example that I can think of is my ID application, for which I had to go to the citizens' office because, according to my contact person, a digital signature is required. On site, however, I signed a paper. This is not a dramatic event, but it does not necessarily mean that my confidence in digitization has been strengthened in our country.

At the moment I cannot say whether the digital citizen in Germany is or will be a curse or a blessing. However, I have a feeling that it can be a blessing if we ensure that we send the right signals and ensure that trust and transparency are the basis of such a system. But we as citizens also have to make a contribution to such a system. The system can only function in the long term if we take responsibility for managing our data and not just blindly trust it.

At this point I am curious how you are doing with the idea of ​​the digital citizen in Germany. Do you have a good feeling about it? Do you have examples of where digitization has made it easier for you to work with the state? And with these questions I say goodbye and wish you a fantastic start to the day.