What can digital technology do for your country?

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1. Introduction

Digital technology has changed the way we live in private and in public, and governments are increasingly aware of the benefits of bringing public services online. But is this good for citizens? New technology offers many potential futures, but how can those futures be sustainable, secure and prosperous for everyone?

This guide is produced in conjunction with the BBC World Service radio programme My Perfect Country.

The programme is presented by broadcaster Fi Glover, entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox and Henrietta Moore, director of UCL Institute for Global Prosperity.

2. How technology has revolutionised nations

Click on the hand to see the effect of technology on these nations.

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3. Estonia: Start-up central

In 1991 Estonia became an independent country. Its new leaders saw a future in code and algorithms: an e-government that would serve its people digitally and change the way citizens and government interact with one another.

This created a supportive environment for tech entrepreneurs and start-ups. Estonia – a small country of just over 1 million people – was the birthplace of Skype, and is home to a large number of start-ups.


Every citizen of Estonia has a digital identity, which allows them to use about 600 municipal and state services online: to access medical records and prescriptions, file taxes, or register a business. Education is also managed online. Since 2014 it has been possible for non-Estonians to become e-residents and benefit from the country’s digital governance.

Trust and Privacy

Estonians are in control of their own personal data, and can see online which officials have viewed their information. It is against the law to view someone’s data without their permission, and private and government agencies must request access. Estonians report a high level of digital trust.

Digital Exclusion

But Estonia’s e-society is not perfect. Only half of those aged 65 and over are internet users, meaning some are excluded. Technology can also be expensive, reducing access to those on lower incomes.

4. The Internet of Things

What happens when the so-called "internet of things" meets public policy?

Professor Mark Miodownik describes the potential impact of the internet of things on big policy areas, such as healthcare. Video courtesy of Robert Eagle, UCL

5. Which country was first?

The internet has turned us in to a global village, but which nations were first out of the blocks to exploit its potential?

Internet browser

It is

United States

According to Guinness World Records, NCSA Mosaic was the world's first internet browser, made by researchers at the University of Illinois in 1993.

It is


The world's first 4G wireless service was launched in Stockholm and Oslo in 2009.

Broadband a legal right

It is


Finland passed and instituted the law in 2010. France also declared broadband a basic human right in 2009.