X-Road : E-Estonia’s National Middleware Platform for Integrated Digital Government
E-Estonia : Digital Nation pioneers
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. France24 is showing a special feature, and their voting platform is considered a potential solution to the democratic challenges many nations face today.
Central to this success is their ‘X-Road‘ system. As this demonstration highlights, it is a central component feature that enabled their journey to become a world leading digital state.
National Data Sharing Platform
This diagram highlights how it acts as a single information sharing platform for inter-connecting all government systems and some commercial ones where appropriate.
Helpful implementation guides include:
- Introductory overviews: Youtube video, Overview presentation, EU overview presentation.
- Best Practices: E-Government in Estonia – Best practices, Overview of legislation and governance context, Nationwide E-Estonia mindset.
- Use cases: How it enables Personalized Healthcare.
- Technical implementation: Discussion of REST / JSON X implementation of X-Road, Academic paper on pseudonymization, Examples of e-government integrations, Training for developers of X-Road interfaces.
Critically it’s not a ‘point solution’, a one-off integration between a small number of systems, as is often the case and actually just creates yet another ‘silo’. Instead it is a single, national framework for integrating all government systems so that citizens are presented with the simplicity essential to what Digital Government is ultimately trying to achieve, ie. a single, simple user interface to all of government, via one standardized identity authentication process.
This generalized platform can then be tailored for any and all Digital Government scenarios; for example this page showcases how it’s enabled an integrated Digital Health system.
“Estonia has a central national database – the health information system. General practitioners and specialist doctors can and need to upload diagnoses, analyses and test results as well as treatment decisions and prescribed medicines, etc. to this national database. In emergency situations, first responders can collect the data for an electronic first-aid card in the ambulance if the patient can be identified. This allows the first aid personnel to respond better and more appropriate to the patient’s needs.”
“The once-only principle aims at reducing the administrative burden for citizens and reusing data.”
International Data Sharing
It’s also helpful to know the potential for the approach goes just beyond internal national sharing of data, and is increasingly being used to facilitate international sharing too, such as agreements with Finland, enabling key capabilities such as Finnish e-prescriptions in Estonia, leading to the formation of the Nordic Institute for Interoperability Solutions. Other nations such as Canada are also following suit.
The Nordic Institute offers this Github repository for the X-Road software.