The proximity to the Scandinavian countries, well-known for their technological and telecommunication innovations, has had a positive effect on Estonia. Significant investments have been made into the telecommunication infrastructure and by now fiber optic cables cover the whole country. Direct undersea connections to Sweden and Finland and links to the neighboring Russia and Latvia guarantee first-class international communications.
In terms of telecommunications infrastructure Estonia is the most advanced of all the CEE countries with a penetration rate of mobile telephones on a par with Germany. In fact, the use of mobile phones has reached the rate of 100%.
Major steps have been taken to ensure that the country’s new generation is well-placed for the future technological developments that will undoubtedly encompass and drive commerce in the future. The Government’s Tiger Leap initiative has helped to provide Internet connections and sufficient supply to all of Estonia’s schools.
Estonia leads the way among the Baltic States in Internet usage and today and 74% of the population is using Internet in one way or another, a figure that is higher than in most other countries.
Estonia is well-known for it’s development in wireless internet connection. It is planned to cover the whole Estonia with wireless internet connection in the near future. At the moment there is a very wide coverage of Wireless internet connection in the city center of Tartu. Most of the cafeterias and pubs have free wireless connection.
The Internet and the new e-economy is equally being embraced by the commercial, governmental and financial sectors of Estonia. As an example, the Estonian Taxation Board has launched a new e-revenue service where tax income-returns can be dealt with on the net.
There are also excellent e-commerce systems in place in Estonia, with many of the leading banks offering the latest on-line services from personal to commercial transactions. A number of companies are using e-billing. Altogether 98% of bank transfers are performed online in Estonia.
Tartu was the first city in the world to introduce paying for parking via mobile phone – a trivial fact, but a good indicator of how technically advanced Tartu has become. This was made possible with a project called m-Tartu which was launched on the fall of 2004. The main purpose of the project is to use the mobile technologies to make the interaction between the city and the citizen of the city faster, better and more comfortable. There services developed with the project are:
ID ticket – the possibility to buy the bus ticket in the city with Your mobile phone and ID-card.
Mobile parking – the possibility to pay for the parking of a car with the mobile phone.
Mobile payment – the possibility to pay the bill in the shop with You mobile phone (if You do not have cash or a credit card with You).
Tartu phone for city’s tidiness 1789 – the possibility to announce the problems in the city (e.g carbage, out of order traffic lights, broken traffic signs, posts etc.).
M-teacher – the possibility for teachers to interact with parents via SMS.
M-neighborhood watch – the possibility for the police control center to send SMS-s with problems in the city to certain target groups such as cab drivers, bus drivers, security services, the members of the neighborhood watch.
M-library – the possibility for the city library to let people know if the book they asked for has become available.
Several innovative technical solutions and applications have been developed locally, for instance MPS (mobile positioning system).
Estonia is leading the way in the technology revolution through the Baltic States and with the continual inflow of foreign investments, the future of e-Estonia looks very promising.