Different organisations and information systems must be interoperable, so that data only needs to be requested from the citizen once. Estonia’s solution for maintaining a modern state is X-road, a platform that allows the secure exchange of data in order to provide efficient public services.

To ensure secure transfers, all outgoing data from X-Road is digitally signed and encrypted, and all incoming data is authenticated and logged. The tool can write to multiple databases, transmit large data sets and perform searches across several databases simultaneously. Furthermore, the platform is scalable as it is able to include new e-services and new platforms. Once citizen data is stored in one database other public service providers will not have to request the same data again, but will have to request that data from where it is stored. This ensures efficient data cross usage and a more seamless service provision for citizens given that once the data is updated, a living address changed for example, all other service providers will automatically also operate with up to date information.

Today, X-Road is implemented in Finland, Azerbaijan, Namibia and Faroe Islands. X-Road also allows data to be automatically exchanged between countries opening up the possibility of building cross border public e-services. [1]

By comprising data from several services, the data exchange layer also allows cross usage of data on another level. The consumption of otherwise independent public services by the same consumer - be it the citizen, a private company or institution - can be analysed to identify ways of how consumers use services in combinations leading to hitherto unseen ways of how public services could be combined to reduce the administrative load of service providers and easing the life of consumers. When people interact with the state then this is mostly due to some life event, like having a child, which brings with itself the need for numerous support services provided by separate institutions. The X-road data shows which separate services and in which order the citizens are actually using due to these life events, and through this gives hard evidence that allows to bundle them in hitherto unseen ways. In the future this will lead to a more seamless experience for the citizens and the need to spend time on interacting with the state reduced by a large margin. 

The data running on X-road also allows to design new purely data driven services such as real-time economic monitoring, forecasting and impact assessment leading to more evidence-based policymaking and a faster policy cycle where mistakes can be corrected earlier due to real time evidence on policy performance. [2]

The X-Road data exchange layer in Estonia provides over 3000 e-services. Over 500 public and almost 680 private institutions provide and consume these services on top of all citizens. The data has been preprocessed, modeled and visualized by the University of Tartu. The main goal is to lead to a more informed decision making that will save public resources and allow precisely targeted policies to increase societal wellbeing. The tools for this are policy domain specific dashboards for monitoring, applications providing input for probability based decisions and forecasting for planning, as well as behavior predicting services based on machine learning to change behavior in order to avoid accidents and reduce hazards that otherwise make the society less secure. [3]


[1] E-Estonia (2018), X-road, https://e-estonia.com/solutions/interoperability-services/x-road/, retrieved on November 23, 2018.

[2] Vassil, K. (2017), Sensors, Data, Decision – The next Generation of Predictive Public E-services, University of Tartu, https://www.hm.ee/sites/default/files/sensors_data_decisions_-_the_next_generation_predictive_public_e-service_kristjan_vassil_21.09.2017_tartu.pdf, retrieved November 23, 2018.

[3] Solvak, M. (2018), Challenges of the use of Big Data in Digital Government, University of Tartu.

Type of content: Assets
Type of asset:
Use case
Big data potential
Policy domains: Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry & Foods Economy & Finance Education, Youth, Culture & Sport Employment & Social Security Foreign Affairs and Defence Health Innovation, Science & Technology Justice, Legal System & Public Safety
Phase in the policy cycle:
Policy Implementation
Policy Monitoring and Evaluation
Open license availability
Ease of use
Tags: Best Practice
SWOT Analysis for
Helpful Harmful
Strengths• Versatile security solution: authentication, multi-level authorisation, high-level system for processing logs, and data traffic that is encrypted and signed
• Independence of platform and architecture: X-tee enables the information systems of X-tee members on any software platform to communicate with the information systems of data service providers on any software platform.
• Multilateralism: X-tee members are able to request access to any data services provided through X-tee.
• Availability and standardisation: for managing and developing X-Road, international standards and protocols are used where possible.
• Security – exchanging data through X-tee does not affect the integrity, availability or confidentiality of the data.
• Time saving: 5% of requests on X-Road are submitted by human users. Assuming every request saves 15 minutes - those requests have saved 804 working years during previous calendar year. There are no estimates on the rest of the queries.
• Unique aspect of e-Estonia is that it lacks a centralised or master database, all information is held in a distributed data system and can be exchanged instantly upon request. All state-related operations can be done online 24/7, prescriptions are issued digitally and only a tiny fraction of individual tax declarations are filed on paper.
• Over 20 years of expertise and experience in automating public and private sector services.
• Estonia has shared its e-governance journey with 60 governments and exported its solutions to over 130 countries around the world
• Most start-ups per capita established than anywhere else in Europe
Weaknesses• The complexity of the process,
• Abundance of different stakeholders
• A number of costs
• Little awareness
• Little understanding of profitability
Opportunities• Raising Public Awareness about the Information Society
• Enabling a secure Internet-based data exchange between information systems.
• Enhancing efficiency of public administration
• Reducing cost and time
• Creating innovative solutions that change the world including services as different as Mobile Parking and self-driven delivery robots
• IT reputation and high engagement of citizens.

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