E-society and E-democracy: the Example of Estonia

Alec Charles


The moral consequences of new technologies have always been ambiguous and controversial; and these ambiguities and controversies are echoed today by researchers examining the social and economic impacts of the Internet, and in particular of E-society, E-government and E-democracy. Because of its speed of IT development – and because of its size, its relative newness as an independent state, and its status as a new member of the European Union (the member with the largest disparity between the rich and the poor) – the formerly Soviet Baltic nation of Estonia presents itself as a pertinent case study in this area. Despite the country’s massive increases in Internet access (spearheaded more energetically by the private and the voluntary sectors than by the state itself) the social, economic and political promises of information technology may here prove optimistic or even unfounded – in so far as the enhanced rights and opportunities offered by IT have tended to accrue to Estonia’s privileged classes rather than to the disadvantaged sections of the population – the people most urgently in need of those new opportunities and rights.