Keynote Robert Krimmer: Is there an Estonian E-Democracy? Co-Creation in the Digital State #cedem16

Robert Krimmer held his keynote “Is there an Estonian E-Democracy? Co-Creation in the Digital State” at the CeDEM16.

krimmer-tRobert Krimmer
Robert Krimmer is Full Professor of e-Governance within Ragnar Nurkse School of Innovation and Governance at the Faculty of Social Science, in Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia. He is focusing on electronic participation and democracy, as well as e-voting, the transformation of the public sector, and all issues further developing a digital society. Associate Editor of the international scientific journal Government Information Quarterly (GIQ) where he is in charge of participation issues. He has been one of the lead experts for the Council of Europe Ad-Hoc Committee on Electronic Democracy and drafted Annex 1 of the CoE Recommendation (2009)1 on e-Democracy. Teaching on e-Governance, e-Democracy, incl. e-Participation and e-Voting as well as End-User Management Information Systems at Tallinn University of Technology, University of Applied Sciences Hagenberg, Danube University Krems, and WU Vienna University of Economics and Business. Mentor of more than twenty graduation theses. Author and/or editor of ten books/special issues of scientific journals. Author of some 80 international scientific articles. He has been cited some 640 times with an Hirsch index of 13 according to Google Scholar.

CeDEM – the international Conference for e-Democracy and Open Government – brings together e-democracy, e-participation and open government specialists working in academia, politics, government and business to critically analyse the innovations, issues, ideas and challenges in the networked societies of the digital age. The CeDEM16 will be held from May 18th to May 20th 2016 at the Danube University Krems.

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Is there an Estonian E-Democracy? Co-Creation in the Digital State

Estonia, a country with a population of 1,3 Million and a size of over 45.000 square kilometers, has used an opportunity to start from the scratch. Originally, it was intended to use digital means instead of paper based processes. Estonia’s schools and government organisations are 100% connected and ICT equipped. Programming is part of the syllabus of general public schools.

75% of homes have broadband access. If an amount of more than 400 Euros shall be transferred electronically, the digital ID will always be required. Apart from online tax declarations, Estonia also promotes electronic voting. Estonia is called a digital state, “E-stonia” is almost a branding of a nation. The understanding of data protection in Austria and in Estonia is completely different.

What is co-creation?

The general idea of involving citizens to building public services (co-creation) can be defined as the involvement of citizens in the initiation and/or the design process of public services in order to (co)create beneficial outcomes. So, citizens may have an idea or be involved in implementing a project. Citizens as co-initiators points to them having an idea and the public hand implementing the project. Citizens can also be co-designer or co-implementers.

Factors influencing co-creation and its outcomes

Factors influencing co-creation on governmental side encompass aspects like the attitude of public officials. On the citizen side, the attitude and experience of citizens towards participation amongst others is important.

Outcomes of co-creation can be suggestions for improving efficiency to improve new products or services, which approach originates from the economy offering “design yourself”-products online. Co-creation can have an impact on the society itself through bringing people together. Assessments before and after co-creation would be of great value.

Estonian e-democracy instruments

With the objective to strengthen effectiveness and efficiency of E-Governance encompassing e-government and e-democracy, concepts like the eID were implemented. An e-democracy instrument used in Estonia is f.i. TOM, a tool for agenda setting through citizens (which can be compared to the Austrian “Volksbegehren”). Discussions of law proposals through a consultation tool happened through, an improved TOM. Rahvakogu, a platform for proposals for improving laws, was initiated by the Estonian president, supported by NGOs. The co-creation within Rahvakogu was really limited.


Estonian Internet Voting is outstanding. The first e-enabled elections were done on the municipal level. Continuous improvement is necessary and it needs time to build trust. There is no co-creational aspect in internet-voting, but in the initiatives of TOM&, citizens were co-initiators, while in Rahvakogu, citizens were co-designers. Internet voting – in contrast to the other initiatives – is in fact used today.


To summarize, Estonia has succeeded in its nation using internet voting. Internet voting is not an e-democracy in itself, though. Estonia is a digital state, but there is a lack of participatory aspects. E-participation efforts have failed so far because of a lack of social capital or impact.

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