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e-Estonia initiative progresses with blockchain partnerships

Former Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar began laying the foundation for raising the e-Generation, following the country’s independence in 1991. It was touted as a period of modernization.

Former Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar began laying the foundation for raising the e-Generation, following the country’s independence in 1991. It was touted as a period of modernization, as Laar believed it was essential to evolve within the digital age.

In late 2014, Estonia made history by becoming the the first country to offer electronic residency to people located both in and outside the country. This was regarded by the Estonian government as a step towards “the idea of a country without borders."

Referred to as e-Estonia, the project has been focused on; Decentralization, as there is to be no central database, and every stakeholder, be it a government department, a ministry or a business, gets to choose its own system in its own time; Interconnectivity, of all the elements in the system have to be able to work together smoothly; An open platform, so that any institution can use the public key infrastructure; and lastly, an open-ended process.

Presently, Estonia is the only country in the world in which its residents carry a public key infrastructure (PKI) card, which grants access to over 1000 electronic government services. Non-residents are also able to apply for a PKI card, which is issued by the state.

The card comes with a four digit pin number, which authorises digital signatures for online documents, which is considered legally binding throughout the EU. Though the card allows access to such services, it must not be confused with physical residency, the right to enter the country, nor as an identifier or travel document.

The digitally advanced nation, which was the birthplace of the online communication platform Skype, is now showing a keen interest in blockchain technology. On the 1st of December last year, Bitnation, a blockchain powered virtual nation, partnered with Estonia’s e-Residency initiative.

“In Estonia we believe that people should be able to freely choose their digital/public services best fit to them, regardless of the geographical area where they were arbitrarily born,” said e-Residency Program Director Kaspar Korjus. “We’re truly living in exciting times when nation states and virtual nations compete and collaborate with each other on an international market, to provide better governance services.”

Via the Bitnation public notary service, all e-residents can notarize marriages, birth certificates, and business contracts. Bitnation drew international attention for assisting with the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe in September last year, with the Bitnation Emergency Refugee Response (BRER).

Bitnation Logo“The blockchain is a public ledger distributed across hundreds of thousands of computers around the world. The distributed and immutable nature of this public notary makes it more secure than any notary currently offered by traditional nation states.”
— – Bitnation

It announced earlier today that Guardtime, a blockchain platform designed to ensure the integrity of data and systems on an industrial scale, has partnered with Estonia’s e-Health Authority. The goal of the partnership is to accelerate blockchain-based security, transparency, auditability and governance for the lifecycle management for patient healthcare records.

According to the press statement, formal cooperation began in 2011, when select government organizations began deploying a KSI blockchain in order to secure public and internal records.

Guardtime will bring its KSI technology to all levels of Estonian eGovernment infrastructure, through a frame cooperation agreement with the Estonian Information Systems Authority (RIA).

GuardTime“Keyless Signature Infrastructure (KSI) is designed to provide scalable digital signature based authentication for electronic data, machines and humans.”
— – Guardtime

Electronic patient records are a critical component of the Estonian government’s services. “Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves has repeatedly pointed out the biggest threat in cyberspace is integrity, and in particular the integrity of patient healthcare records,” said Mike Gault, CEO of Guardtime. Guardtime designed its blockchain technology to create an immutable, “forensic-quality,” audit trail, where it will be impossible to change or hide information.

The recently released Breach Report 2015: Protected Health Information (PHI) outlines that over 100 million patient records were affected by large scale hacking attacks last year.

Redspin“As of December 31, 2015, a total of 1,437 large breaches of PHI affecting 154,368,781 patients had been reported since HITECH went into effect in 2009.”
— – Breach Report 2015: Protected Health Information, produced by Redspin

Daniel W. Berger, President of Redspin,  the company responsible for the report, said, “Healthcare organizations are under attack. For those entrusted to protect patient data, the security challenges are now that much more difficult.”

The report also states that there was an 89.7 percent increase in breached records from 2014 to 2015: “Last year’s single-largest incident, which was also the largest healthcare breach in history, involved 78,000,000 records. In all, there were 258 large breaches of PHI in 2015 with a total of 113,208,516 patient health records breached. Approximately one of three American has had their personal health information breached as the result of security flaws or human error since 2009.”

It is clear that protecting such sensitive information is not an easy feat. Guardtime intends to harness the power of the blockchain in order to curb the trend. “This level of transparency and auditability is a global first and with healthcare fraud costing hundreds of billions of dollars every year, the Estonian model should provide a valuable template to dramatically reduce this fraud for the rest of the world.”


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