E-Estonia X-Road : Middleware Platform for a Digital Nation

Estonia has become a worldwide phenomenon, renowned for how they have mastered technology to entirely digitize their public service, achieving the ultimate Digital Government goal of ending bureaucracy and building an end to end digital nation.

Across the world other countries have commented enviously on their success – The New Yorker wrote this excellent, detailed analysis, describing them as the Digital Republic of the future.

“E-Estonia is the most ambitious project in technological statecraft today, for it includes all members of the government, and alters citizens’ daily lives. The normal services that government is involved with—legislation, voting, education, justice, health care, banking, taxes, policing, and so on—have been digitally linked across one platform, wiring up the nation.”

France24 ran a special feature, and their voting platform is considered a potential solution to the democratic challenges many nations face today.

They are now outperforming other European nations for education including the UK, and their E-Residency program, a flagship example of how technology underpins new economic growth capabilities, has exemplified their openness to other countries generating € millions in direct income. In short they are a real world testimony to the concept of a digital nation, what benefits it brings and how to achieve it.

This video shares an interview with Estonian CIO Siim Sikkut describing how the platform approach is fundamental to this capability.

X-Road – A National Data Sharing Platform

Central to this success is their ‘X-Road‘ system. As this presentation describes, it is a central component feature that enabled their journey to become a world leading digital state. Nordic Institute for Interoperability Solutions (NIIS) is a non-profit association founded jointly by Finland and Estonia, and is responsible for the development and management of the X-Road core.

This diagram highlights how it acts as a single information sharing platform for inter-connecting all government systems and some commercial ones where appropriate.

X-Road is an open source data exchange layer solution that enables organizations to exchange information over the Internet. X-Road is a centrally managed distributed data exchange layer between information systems that provides a standardized and secure way to produce and consume services, and is released under the MIT open source license and is available free of charge for any individual or organization.

X-Road ensures confidentiality, integrity and interoperability between data exchange parties. X-Road is used nationwide in the Estonian data exchange layer X-tee and in the Data Exchange Layer service in Finland. However, X-Road is not just for public sector organisations – all kinds of organisations regardless of size or type can join the national environments and exchange data with other member organisations.

Two X-Road ecosystems can be joined together, federated. Members of the federated ecosystems can publish and consume services with each other as if they were members of the same ecosystem. Federation enables easy and secure cross-border data exchange between member states using X-Road.

Helpful implementation guides include:

This video shares a talk given by Petteri Kivimäki from Nordic Institute for Interoperability Solutions (NIIS) at the 2019 Platform Summit in Stockholm.

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