Identity in the Information Society

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 213-233

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Electronic identity management in Estonia between market and state governance


The present paper summarizes the development of the national electronic Identity Management System (eIDMS) in Estonia according to a conceptual framework developed in an European comparative research project outlined in the first chapter of this special issue. Its main function is to amend the picture of the European eIDMS landscape by presenting a case with high involvement of the private sector and thereby checking the generalizations from the comparisons of Austria, Belgium, Germany and Spain, presented by Kubicek and Noack in the previous chapter of this special issue. Starting with a short introduction into the historical background of identity documents in Estonia the national population register, the passport as well as the bank ID are described as the main pillars of the Estonian eIDMS, on which the national ID card builds on, which has been introduced in 2002. The technical features of the eID and the ID card are described in Section two as well as the areas of application and the processes for production and distribution. Section three presents the actors constellation, Section four the time line of the development process, starting from 1997. Section five deals with the diffusion and promotion of the ID card and the eID authentication function. After a very low and slow take up during the first 5 years due to a cooperation agreement between major banks, telecom operators and the government usage has increased. But still the authentication by Internet banks, which provides authentication services to third parties, including government, is the biggest competitor for the eID function on the national eID card. Only recently the major banks have announced to slowly fade out the password cards and PIN calculators as alternative modes of bank authentication.


Estonia Digital signature Electronic identity