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The Scalable Civic Tech of Estonia — 1808 Turing Top Talks


alright, I think we're good Hello everybody I'm Jamison from back end mod four and as Ellen Mary said I want to talk a little bit today about the civic tech of Estonia

so we all know, I don't need to evangelize to you, that there's a lot of really awesome technology out in the world that has potential to make our lives a lot easier and more enjoyable particularly in the realm of civic tech We are facing a lot of obstacles here in our country we have a lot of privacy concerns, issues of scalability and also the lack of familiarity, as far as our legislators are concerned, with the tech space We see this with things like SESTA/FOSTA, we see this with net neutrality But I'd like to compare and contrast that to what life is like in Estonia So, Estonia has a different kind of relationship with tech

In Estonia, Internet is a human right, it's legally considered a human right Public services are available about nine percent– ninety nine percent, I'm sorry– are available to citizens as e-services So citizens have a lot of access to their data for instance using this digital ID that was implemented in 2001 they can actually vote from their phones and something like that 30 percent of Estonians actually use i-voting They can get on to an eHealth portal and see all of their health records, when they've been modified, by what doctor, and why And I think that all of this groundwork that extends all the way back to like, the nineties, is the reason that the type implementation that they are famous for today is possible

They have this creative and experimental approach to improving e-society the first example you may have heard of and maybe the most well-known even is the cyber attacks of 2007 So in 2007 Estonia decided they wanted to move this statue of the Bronze Soldier of Tallin out of the capitol, it reminded a lot of their citizens of Russian occupation and it was a really political move There were even Estonian government officials who received messages from Russia saying don't do that, don't move that statute But they did, and spoiler alert, they moved it out of the capitol and couple days later they were faced with cyber attacks in April 27 2007 Parliament, banks, newspapers organizations– they were all flooded with bots and spam and defacements of political parties and then one person was charged and convicted in 2008 and regardless of political motivation these attacks exposed major security flaws in Estonia's digital infrastructure

Instead of wiping it all out Estonia said 'let's not let that happen again' The attacks did die down because these things are expensive to run, and Estonia started working on a solution Nice growth mindset, Estonia So this is about the time they started experimenting with blockchain technology and that's, you know, probably one of the most popular things that they've done To take a second to talk about what blockchain technology is not– it's not the cybersecurity equivalent to Power Armor

And I think that there's a common misconception that blockchain is super secure and automatically trustworthy, which isn't true, it's a false sense of trust We always need to recognize that we are putting our trust into the people who are building the software and also the people here working with data But as far as what the blockchain is, it's a data structure And the type of data structure that Estonia started working with in 2008 was the KSI blockchain which has a merkle tree This is a merkle tree here and it's a data structure where every leaf node is labeled with the hash of the data block and every non-leaf node is labeled with a cryptographic hash of the labels of its child noedes

So there's a lot of complicated math: there's a post quantum signatures that Guardtime, the creators of the KSI blockchain, claim would be able to defend against attacks done by quantum computers which is actually an upcoming security threat when it comes to data that's stored on the blockchain And the blockchain itself here back then it was just called hash-linked time stamping as we saw with the merkle tree is a really good explanation of what this technology does and they don't store any of this sensitive data to like the e-ID or the e-health data on the blockchain What it does is it actually acts as a protective layer which prevents people from being able to manipulate the data from either outside of the organization or within the organization without it leaving a trail of what they have changed and when It's worth mentioning that Guardtime now has has continued to work on this technology and other technologies that are now being used by NATO and the US Department of Defense I think that we have basically three major takeaways from these observations and the first being that Estonia is committed to consistent pursuit of innovation

They come back to reworking solutions often and quickly They don't waste any time making sure that the data is secure and making sure that services are accessible for other people speaking of accessibility, going back to kind of the values that Estonia has surrounding data the internet and technology: it's accessible for people regardless of income level, geographic location, and ability And lastly, autonomy Users access to their data what's being done with it when they can access it you know what they can do with that data for themselves and who all is involved in changing and storing that data Good examples of civic type are infrastructures which are carefully designed to help citizens and are accessible to everyone

And I believe that's where innovation matters most of all Thank you

Source: Youtube

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