Mobile Voting in Estonia

Erik Linask : Convergence Corner
Erik Linask

Mobile Voting in Estonia

There's been so much chatter around wireless technology lately, thanks in no small part to the popularity of Apple's iPhone, Google's Android platform, and now the latest BlackBerry all-touchscreen phone, the Storm. You could fill an entire site with iPhone-related news and information, in fact.

The interesting thing, though, is that the U.S. is still well behind Europe, in particular, with respect to mobile capabilities, which leads me to an article I wrote today about an exciting development in the mobile world.

Estonia is a small country, hidden away on the shores of the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland. Despite its small size and population, it has already made a significant contribution to the communications world, being home to much of the R&D that has gone into the Skype application now used by some 370 million people globally.

Last year, Estonia became the first country to allow voting in nationwide general elections to be done online. The online turnout wasn't very great -- only about 3.5% percent of registered voters -- but it signaled again that the country holds its own when it comes to technology.

Now, Estonia has again landed itself in the global technology spotlight. Its parliament voted to allow voting via mobile phone -- m-voting. Though it won't actually implement the process until the 2011 general election, it is the first country to pass such a law.

I expect the participation rate to be significantly higher for m-voting than for last year's online voting process. Estonia's mobile penetration rate was rated at more than 120% last year.

The first question that comes to mind is regarding security of such an endeavor. Following last year's elections, officials said there were no instances of hacking, fraud, or other malicious activity with the online voting process.

Yes, it's a small country, and the online voters were ever fewer -- and in a country such as the U.S. or Great Britain, the concern might be greater -- but what tiny Estonia has clearly shown is that such capabilities are, in fact, feasible and can be put into practice with the appropriate precautions.

I admit, I'm more than slightly biased, since both my parents were born in Estonia, but that doesn't change the fact that it is making a name for itself in the communications space.

More importantly, it confirms what all the talk about mobile communications suggests -- we are moving to a world where nearly all communications will be run across mobile networks. It presents a spectacular opportunity for mobile network operators.

To hear about and discuss the latest in mobile communications, I hope to see you at TMC's newest event, 4G Wireless Evolution, in Miami, February 2-4, 2009.


Estonia, despite its not insignificant contributions to technology, holds firmly to its heritage in song and dance.

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