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The Internet

Estonia: Where the Internet is a Human Right 499

securitas writes "The Christian Science Monitor reports on technological change in Estonia, where an enlightened post-Soviet era government believes the Internet is essential for life in the 21st century and backs that up with legislation declaring Internet access is a human right. Estonia is a country where hot, running water was a luxury a decade ago. It's now a place where farmers have broadband Internet, 80% of the people use online banking, Internet usage and broadband penetration rates are comparable to Western Europe, and the government conducts most business (meetings, votes, document reviews, etc.) virtually through a system of networked computers. Not bad for a country that only 10 years ago was a crumbling, bankrupt mess with a network infrastructure to match."
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Estonia: Where the Internet is a Human Right

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  • A further comment (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Raindance ( 680694 ) * <> on Sunday July 06, 2003 @02:18PM (#6377988) Homepage Journal
    This story is interesting but I think it's a little vague; it would be much better to ask what *kind* of internet is a basic human right (i.e. democratic, decentralized, or centralized, top-down, corporate, or other models). The Estonians seem to be answering this question correctly but it's hardly something that an article like this should gloss over.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 06, 2003 @02:23PM (#6378026)
      This story is an example of degrading "human" rights by whores in positions of political power.
      What is next? The Human right to a car? How about the human right to friday's off every six months?
      • How about the human right to friday's off every six months?

        I second that motion!

        Motion carried!

        Everybody has Fridays off every six months.


        • After all, I got this friday off... in the next six month period I get two fridays off... after that, another friday... then, three fridays...

          Looks like I average about *two* fridays off in a six month period! I don't think I want your plan instead, unless those are *additional* fridays.
      • How is this degrading Human Rights exactly?
        • by reemul ( 1554 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @03:29PM (#6378413)
          "How is this degrading Human Rights exactly?"

          By listing all sorts of "wouldn't it be nice" ideas and privileges as 'rights'. Rights are the biggies--life, liberty, pursuit of property---not this laundry list crap. Calling it a 'right' is just a cynical ploy to make an entitlement impossible to remove or de-fund at some future date. Deciding whether or not the government should pay for internet access is a normal legislative function, if you don't like it vote for somebody else. Getting rid of a 'right' to free internet access becomes a ridiculously tough struggle, with mindless NGO drones from around the world taking to the streets with the giant puppets, for reasons that are never really clear.

          Calling that sort of nonsense a 'right' is the same as calling some 12-year-old building a website with FrontPage wizards a programmer. It cheapens the title for those that really deserve it. Don't let those imbeciles working on various European constitutions fool you, a right is something fundamental and undisputable, not something it would be kinda nifty to have that you don't want later unenlightened politicos to be able to take away. That's just childish, an example of one-man-one-vote-one-time that doesn't deserve to be even taken seriously.
          • Re:A further comment (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 06, 2003 @03:39PM (#6378485)
            You have somewhat of a point, but I think the Internet can be classified as a right just as much as the others can be.

            If you consider that for all pragmatic purposes to interact with the world freely and to share knowledge a right... then the internet seems to fit the bill.

            Consider gathering people together to discuss an issue at the library. The majority of the people even interested won't even show up for various reasons. Then discuss that over the internet on a halfway decent web board, such as slashdot(oh, well.. a long time ago it was decent ;)
            • As others have said, the Internet as a right(as in birth->accessability) entail quite a bit of expense.(e.g. computer or similarly capable device, power, telephone, cable, dsl, or other connection) For basic speech, all you need is what you come with.

              Now, free speech as it occurs online, the free exchange of information, those, like many nifty things, ought to be protected, but there's a difference between protecting them and declaring them rights.(see all the junk necessary that must be provided to p
          • The "right" involved is unencumbered access to basic infrastructure. Exactly what is included in that basic infrastructure, who pays for what, how and when are messy details that the political system more or less tries to sort out.
            I agree that the biggies are life, liberty, and the persuit of .... But, it is impossible to have those biggies without a large mess of smallies.
          • Rights are the biggies--life, liberty, pursuit of property---not this laundry list crap. Calling it a 'right' is just a cynical ploy to make an entitlement impossible to remove or de-fund at some future date.

            But isn't "making it impossible to remove or de-fund at some future date" exactly the purpose of setting out laws granting your "biggies"? Those things are hardly absolutes, and one doesn't have to look far to find places where those "rights" don't exist. Killing people, taking away their freedom, a
      • by John Zebedee ( 659358 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @03:15PM (#6378338)
        Depends, I guess, on what you think a "right" might be. I agree completely that the term is far too loosely thrown around these days; any self-identified group with a grievance gets the attention of your political whores by asserting "rights". OTOH, a government willing to assert that, regardless of natural law, citizens in Estonia have the fundamental right of access to information and communication, is a rare example of enlightenment in the political arena. Consider that one of the causes of the downfall of the Soviet regime was access to the Internet, with the consequent free exchange of information and ideas.
      • by Stephen Samuel ( 106962 ) <> on Sunday July 06, 2003 @04:16PM (#6378724) Homepage Journal
        This story is an example of degrading "human" rights by whores in positions of political power.

        What good is the right to free speech if nobody is allowed to listen to you?

        This should also be considered in the context of a post-stalinist political sensitivity. Stalin considered typewriters to be weapons of revolution -- he knew that, if the people got together and realized that others had the same idea, the recognition of agreement could cause the people to refuse to act like sheep.

        In North American we're spoiled. Access to basic telecommunications is so easy and ubiquituos that we consider it to be a right. The fact that we haven't had to fight for it (yet) doesn't make it any less important.

        Consider this: When the Chinese censors tried to cut off access to google, we thought that something was wrong. They weren't cutting access to the net... just one of it's search engines. Similarly, many people were upset when the government effectively shut off Mitnic from access to computers (effectively including The Internet). Many of us are living like the internet is a basic right, but we just haven't declared it so.

        How would you feel if, in the midst of 9/11 or some political crisis, the government managed to shut off access to the internet "to prevent panic"? I've been on the inside of political news stories, and I do not trust the news media to report political events in a completely unbiased manner. For me the question is more one of whether or not the bias is in my direction.

        The right to free speech requires the right to be heard. The interned allows people to be heard by whomever wants to listen to us. In my world, the right to the Internet is a corrolary of the right to free speech. The Estonian government has simply codified this concept.

        • A right is a power, not a thing. My right of free speech means I have both the power to speak and the power to prevent people from restricting my speech. Oftentimes that power takes the form of legal action, but at its heart it is still a physical power: if you attempt to clamp your hand over my mouth I will bite down really hard.

          What good is the right to free speech if nobody is allowed to listen to you?

          You're talking about two different rights. One is the power to speak and the other the power to list
    • Re:A further comment (Score:5, Interesting)

      by banzai51 ( 140396 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @02:40PM (#6378124) Journal
      An even more interesting story would be HOW they turned around from a crumbling, ex-soviet Estonia into the successful, wired Estonia. What are the employement levels, per capita income, etc. What turned it around for them?
      • by abhisarda ( 638576 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @03:18PM (#6378359) Journal


        I saw a programme on DW-TV a few months ago on this subject. Why has Estonia made such progress while its neighbours are still languishing in the soviet era?

        The reason of such a profound change in Estonia is because of one main reason- change of guard. Young people control the majority of Estonia's power. Be it politics, architecture, name it. The older generation has handed over a lot of the responsibilities.

        The prime minister himself is 35 years old. All the members of his cabinet are younger to him.

        What is so special about young people? They carry no baggage. They want more economic progress and they will do whatever is needed to achieve that. Politicans/businesspeople/engineers work towards a common goal i.e economic progress. Nobody cares a damn about communist crap.

        Here is a quote taken from (DW-TV []).


        One of Estonia's youngest politicians was asked this week to be the country's new prime minister. 35-year old, Juhan Parts - who was 24 when he started in politics - was chosen by the victorious Res Publica party after recent elections in the Baltic state. Described as 'boyish and brainy', Parts belongs to a tradition of young leaders in top positions within Estonia's government. The country's first prime minister after independence was Mart Laar who was 32 years old when sworn in.

        Here is a related article about young people [] in Estonia.

        Leaders elsewhere in the struggling economies of Europe could learn something from Estonia.
        • by Dausha ( 546002 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @03:34PM (#6378445) Homepage

          Please don't forget Americans (and other nationalities) of Estonian decent who either returned to the country to help rebuild, or helped others to do so.

          I have an uncle who is first-generation US born Czech, and because of his long, successful career in logisitics and economics, spent at least one year of his life working with the Czech government to rebuild its infrastructure.

          It is good that the government had so many youthful leaders, but there were those on the outside helping out. You can't create that level of change in half a generation without a good deal of fiscal support and training.

      • What are the employement levels, per capita income, etc

        From the article: ''... a country with an average per capita income of $7,000.''

        Try reading the article. While not explicitly stated in all cases, you can infer some of the information that you are looking for.

      • by Ian Bicking ( 980 ) < minus language> on Sunday July 06, 2003 @04:14PM (#6378713) Homepage
        My impression is that they are doing much like Singapore, which not that long ago was very poor and undereducated, and has no natural resources or any reason to be successful. Singapore seems kind of disturbing, but maybe it shouldn't -- a sort of enlightened, maternal dictatorship, which seems to have actually had the country's best interest in mind. High levels of self-investment, companied with careful protectionism, and careful alignment with the international powers-that-be (allowing but also shaping foreign investment, discouraging speculative investment).

        I think some of the lesson is that modernization isn't that hard -- it can happen quickly, and democratically (meaning modernization of the masses, not just the elite). Productivity -- even in an underdeveloped nation -- is high enough that a self-investment feedback loop can do incredible things.

        I think that's even true in the US, if we spent more of our wealth investing in infrastructure, education, society, etc., instead of wasting it on our petty consumerist tendencies, it would be amazing what we could accomplish. Instead we go to great lengths to fritter our wealth away.

  • by YodaToad ( 164273 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @02:19PM (#6377995)
    I always love downloading my ISO's from Estonia mirrors. I always seem to get my max download speed. Good for them!
  • A right? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dashmon ( 669814 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @02:23PM (#6378021)
    How can something that's only been developed the last few decades become a fundamental human right? Before that, humans were all witheld that right? The creation of the internet was one of the higher goals of mankind?

    I sure hope not.

    I don't see why this is necessary, either. I understand the Internet is becomming more and more important for a lot of people, and I'm very much in favour granting as many people as possible access to the net, but only because it is a right to have access to those things you need to survive. If those things are moved to the net, you need to make sure everyone can still access them. That doesn't mean the Net is a right, though - just the things you really need to use it for.
    • Re:A right? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Surak ( 18578 ) *
      I dunno. The u.S. government sees the telephone as a basic human right. So much so that there is STILL a tax on everyone's phone bill to pay for everybody out in a rural area to have phone service.
      • Re:A right? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by reemul ( 1554 )
        We think it is a damn fine idea, but we didn't make a right to telephone access part of the Constitution. See the difference? Getting rid of the tax is hard enough---no government likes to see those go away---but deciding to no longer fund a formal right would be far, far more difficult.

    • Re:A right? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by KoalaBear33 ( 687260 )
      As a poster above indicated, it all depends on the exact definition and semantics. Are we talking about internet access as a right? Or is it internet freedom (as in speech) a right? Or what? In any case, I think it is reasonable to grant rights for internet freedom. For instance, if Estonia is making sure that speech, opinions, etc on the internet cannot be monitored/censored/recorded/etc then I would agree with that. However, if it is simply internet access, it is kind of a minor point. Unfortunately, I
    • I look at it as a form of communication, which has been established as a right.

      I mean the right to free speech (in the USA) means one can own a printing press, or a radio station (regulations permitting), TV, or now, a web page.

      I don't think the founding fathers had radio and tv in mind when they wrote the bill of rights, but they knew that people have the need to communicate.
    • How can something that's only been developed the last few decades become a fundamental human right? Before that, humans were all witheld that right? The creation of the internet was one of the higher goals of mankind?

      Internet access in every house would allow such things as daily referendums on public issues. It makes transparency in government much more desirable, due to citizens' ability to check up on government business instantly over the Internet. It could even do away with "representative governmen

      • "Internet access in every house would allow such things as daily referendums on public issues."

        How do you say "CowboyNeal" in Estonian?

        Seriously, I don't seen the Internet per se being the right kind of computer network to hold such referenda. It's entirely too insecure to do anything binding with. Or do they want a few thousand astroturf votes from outside the country? From an e-mail account from, perhaps?

        "It makes transparency in government much more desirable, due to citizens' ability
      • It all sounds good in theory...but just take /. for example. Do you want all of the people you see posting to be the people in charge of running the coutry?
        Think of THAT! The quarter would say "All your base are belong to us!" on one side, and "In Soviet Russia, quarter pays with YOU!" on the other.

        Now just imagine the country run by people who vote on issues without reading more than the title*, because they only have 5 minutes between Blind-Date and 5th-Wheel.
        *OK, I admit it, that sounds like Co

    • You know, I think you're right. It probably has more to do with what you can get from the to information...which, in my opinion, is a fundamental human right.

      In the US, we see areas where poor people don't know how to use the internet or computers, and those people (and their children) are at a horrible disadvantage in the workplace, when you place them next to wealthier suburbanites who have had access. The internet is not a cure-all for equality in education, but it is certa
    • by Arker ( 91948 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @03:02PM (#6378270) Homepage

      I agree. I'm very happy that Estonia is making such good progress in getting people hooked up. But the issue of the misuse of the word 'right' remains.

      This is concept-destruction, using concepts in ways that contradict their meaning, and if we let people get away with it people eventually forget what a real right is. They aren't the only ones, of course, but it's still very sad to see.

      A right is something that you can have without taking away someone elses, that's one of the key qualities of it. Your right to free speech doesn't stop me from talking. Your right to practise the religion of your choice, or not, doesn't stop me from having the same right. But when you're talking about goods and services, such as medical care or internet access, these aren't things that you have as long as no one interferes to take them, rather they are things that someone must work to produce. So, if you claim a 'right' to these things, what you have done is claim a 'right' to someone elses labour, a right to enslave others, essentially. There is no right, there can be no such right, it is contradictory to the core of what rights are.

    • Re:A right? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by martinflack ( 107386 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @03:10PM (#6378308)
      It's a "gateway right", as are many US rights.

      For example, there is nothing intrinsically beneficial about being able to carry a firearm; that lump of steal on your belt doesn't feed you, clothe you, make you happy, or help build society. Heck, you're not even allowed to fire it at most people except under special circumstances. But it's a gateway right - it positively aids in the protection of all your other rights, e.g. freedom of speech, assembly, and religion. The government knows that at any given moment a sizeable group of citizens has the ability to bring physical force to bear.

      We're entering a world where information is more powerful than weaponry. Witness how much work Bush had to do on the political stage before he could invade Iraq, and how much information his army had to continuously feed out in order to keep proper appearances. In days past none of this was necessary for a superpower.

      The idea that freedom to access and trade information is superior to the freedom to carrying a firearm makes perfect sense to me. Not that I would support a cancellation of the latter right, but I do recognize the shifting priorities.

      And remember, all "rights" are novel. We call them "basic" or "inherent," but nature plays no part in them. All rights are contrived fictions that people created; and so every "right" has a birthday, so to speak. Today is the birthday of the Right To Internet Access. And her mother is Estonian.

      What may be interesting (and wonderful) is that we now live in a world where people don't necessarily have to die for the creation and recognition of new human rights.
    • Re:A right? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by be-fan ( 61476 )
      I see a lot of skepticism about this, but it makes sense. In order to understand this, you have to take a big-picture view of things. First, a few premises:

      1) The standard of living worldwide is improving, and will continue to improve in the future, as far as we can tell.
      2) Progress occurs mainly at the top end of society, with those at the bottom being left further behind. This is will proven by the fact that the disparity between rich and poor keeps growing larger, faster, especially in developed nations
    • Things generally become "rights" when somebody tries to prevent you from having them. Have a look at the U.S. Bill of Rights []. When the U.S. was founded, every one of these rights had an active anti-constituency that would have liked to take them away. (Most of them still do.) The purpose of the BoR is to prevent this.

      It's hardly suprising that as former Soviet republic would latch on to information technology as a fundamental right. It's a simple reaction to Soviet policy, which even restricted access to

  • by bizitch ( 546406 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @02:25PM (#6378029) Homepage
    You don't know what those wacky Estonians will do with thier "rights" and their "freedoms" ....

    They might start a decentralized peer-to-peer network and start trading files or something!
  • Money? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bajo77 ( 632115 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @02:27PM (#6378040)
    I'm wondering, where is all the money coming from for everyone to have high-speed internet access. I know the government probably takes more taxes than in the US. But, how can a country that was almost bankrupt not too long ago afford this?
    • The recovery from bankruptcy can be explained by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the arrival of a market economy. In addition, don't forget that Estonia, as well as Latvia and Lithuania, had long histories as independent sovereign nations before being occupied by the Soviets.

      As for the cost of Internet, I'm curious about the balance of access and use in the home versus access in the office and cafes and such.
      • In addition, don't forget that Estonia, as well as Latvia and Lithuania, had long histories as independent sovereign nations before being occupied by the Soviets.

        Lithuania used to be a large kingdom around the middle of the last millenium, but it was eventually subsumed into Poland and Russia. It hadn't existed as a distinct political entity for more than two hundred years when the Russian empire finally imploded. Latvia and Estonia, unfortunately, were pretty much always at the mercy of the other Balti
    • Re:Money? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Estonian internet access is not goverment-funded. Also ADSL/Cable cost about as much as in western europe.

      Most of the initial investments were done by scandinavian investors (Telia for example). They weren't huge -- estonia is about the size of a thumbnail on a good map... makes it easy to connect every main town with fiber.

      After that, estonian telecoms have been making profit constantly.
    • Does Estonia have a strong engineering/science tradition? Is the university system particluarly strong there?
  • by Brother52 ( 181351 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @02:29PM (#6378055)
    Where did you get this crap? Estonia was one of the most well-doing republics of the Soviet union. Hot water stopped to be a "luxury" around 1940's, as far as I can tell (I'm a former Soviet citizen).
    • Yes, most people indeed had hot water taps, but usually you only got cold water from there - in the summer, the central heating system (which also heated water) was mostly turned off, in the winter the plumbing was often broken. And the water was rusty. There are many people who still don't have hot water. Mind you, there still are people without electricity...
    • Well, hot water was certainly available with no
      problem in the cities, but I think throughout much
      of former Soviet Union, rural areas were much worse
      off. I know the village near Moscow where we used
      to have our country house in the 1980s didn't have
      hot water and we had to use local gas heaters.
      OTOH, our Moscow apartment had hot water since
      it was built.
    • by HBI ( 604924 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @02:52PM (#6378208) Journal
      About the time Estonia became a "republic".

      Estonia was a very prosperous *independent* country until Stalin invaded in 1939 as part of the Non-Aggression pact with Hitler.

      The Baltic States had always been very prosperous - the easy sea access, trade relationships with the Hanse towns and Scandinavia, or whatever other reason.
      • Wrong (Score:3, Informative)

        by varjag ( 415848 )
        About the time Estonia became a "republic".
        Estonia was a very prosperous *independent* country until Stalin invaded in 1939 as part of the Non-Aggression pact with Hitler.

        However, it has nothing to do with hot water shortage.

        The problems with hot water begun in early 90s, when USSR imposed sancitons to Estonia shortly after its declaration of independence, barring it from energy supplies. By that time, there was *plenty* of water, power lines, railroads, highways and other relatively modern infrastructu
  • Obvious? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Clockwurk ( 577966 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @02:31PM (#6378065) Homepage
    Not bad for a country that only 10 years ago was a crumbling, bankrupt mess with a network infrastructure to match

    Taking this into consideration, their system seems pretty natural. Estonia (unlike say the US) is starting their tech infrastructure from scratch. They don't have to deal with ancient systems kludged together with duct-tape or deeply entrenched telcos. If the US had an oppurtunity to start from square one, many of the problems we have wouldn't exist.

    This is also a bit like the MS/Linux situation. MS made some bad decisions early, and has to deal with these decisions and peice together work-arounds. Linux was built from nothing, and has the obvious advantage of seeing what mistakes others have made and not repeating them.

    As long as Estonia analyzes mistakes others have made and are careful not to repeat history (bad things), they may well end up with an example for all others on how to assemble a tech infrastructure.
    • Re:Obvious? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Feztaa ( 633745 )
      Linux was built from nothing, and has the obvious advantage of seeing what mistakes others have made and not repeating them.

      Hey, that would explain why we still use X11! Bzzzzt. Wrong.

      Linus didn't really avoid the mistakes that had been previously made, he simply chose the make the mistakes of UNIX, instead of the mistakes of WINDOWS -- probably for the simple reason that it was the devil he knew.

      If you want to talk about an OS that learned from history and didn't repeat other people's mistakes, you're
  • I think you are confusing Estonia and Lithuania. Estonia has always been one of the better organized of the Baltic republics, even in the era of the USSR, and one of the first to define and push towards a new west-facing economy thereafter.
    Dramatise if you must, but get your facts right.
    • I think you are confusing Estonia and Lithuania. Estonia has always been one of the better organized of the Baltic republics, even in the era of the USSR, and one of the first to define and push towards a new west-facing economy thereafter.Dramatise if you must, but get your facts right.

      I imagine every nation in that area was a crumbling bankrupt mess ten years ago. The fiction that supported their economic system had been ruined, and the Russians sort of abandoned their former colonies. Some seem to h
      • If you have to imagine, and you think every nation in Eastern Europe is the same, it doesn't sound like you know much of what you're talking about.

        Statements that sound like knee-jerk reactions backed by no facts like the last sentence only encourage this perception.

        I'm not saying you're wrong, I don't know, but the way you phrase this suggests you don't know either, and that you could just as easily believe Latin America is inhabited by sombrero-carrying tortilla-eaters ruled by military dictators named
      • Do you actually have any experience with this or are you just regurgitating all the propoganda US-ians were fed during the '80s? The situation was bad, no doubt, but it wasn't quite as bad as you make it out to be, and most importantly, its nowhere near as simple as you make it out to be.
  • Not so good.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by archonon ( 662612 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @02:35PM (#6378098)
    I was at Estonia last year, and I really have to disagree with article because way too rosy picture of country. Computer prices are at sky high. GNP is quite low ($10,900), country has problems with criminality, prostitution, drugs, mafia etc. Tallinn is quite safe and prosperity city, mainly because all of tourists who carry *lots* of money there. But, at countryside. Lot's of Soviet era problems. ...But I can get there cheap booze :D
  • by aliens ( 90441 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @02:37PM (#6378105) Homepage Journal
    Yeah it's strange, but hey who are you to judge? []
  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @02:37PM (#6378108)

    ... and an Inexhaustible Source of Porn.

  • by MSBob ( 307239 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @02:38PM (#6378118)
    Since when was Estonia 'nearly bankrupt' or had hot water as a 'luxury'. Estonia has always been doing relatively well even during the years of Soviet occupation.

    Just to clarify Estonia is not an 'ex-Soviet' republic. It is an independent country that was forcibly occupied by Soviets in 1940 and regained their independence in 1990. Even their language has nothing to do with Russian. It shares its roots with Swedish and Norwegian.

    • Estonian does not share its roots with Swedish and Norwegian. It shares its roots with Finnish and Hungarian.
    • " Just to clarify Estonia is not an 'ex-Soviet' republic. It is an independent country that was forcibly occupied by Soviets in 1940 and regained their independence in 1990."

      You do realize you just described about every Soviet republic other than Russia, right?

      Alright, so the 1940 date is a little late for some of the other republics (Ukraine comes to mind), but what SSR signed on without being "convinced" to do so by the Red Army?
      • Most of the Soviet republics were Russia, or more specificly, the former Russian empire, until 1922, when they divided the country into different "republics" and autonomous regions.
  • by Distinguished Hero ( 618385 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @02:43PM (#6378146) Homepage
    Per capita, Estonians are currently spending more time (67 hours/year/capita) [] playing first person shooters online than Canadians (57 hours/year/capita). They're almost matching South Korea (70 hours/year/capita). By the way, the US comes in with 109 hours/year/capita.
    This is quite a feat for a former Soviet republic.

    Full Article []
  • Their Internet use is high for their per capita income, and the law they passed is certainly forward-looking. But securitas's summary is flat-out wrong. Last year only 1/3 of the population used the Internet, so clearly 80% of the people aren't using online banking. What the article said is that "Estonians do 80 percent of their banking on the internet." This could mean that a tiny fraction who do a ton of transactions (medium-size business, for example) are doing it online.

    "...broadband penetration rates

  • It's unfortunate that the article doesn't go into the reason for Estonia declaring internet access a human right. I however, see a possible reasons they might do such a thing.

    Free speech:
    Free speech and exchange of ideas are theoretically (scientific definition) important to societal, technological, and other human advancement. If you can say whatever you want but can't say it to anyone, then you don't have free speech. Free speech must be available to the public or it is without value. The internet is

  • The internet should be treated as a privilege not a right. That way abusers like spammers can have their privileges revoked.
  • Missing the point? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by djeaux ( 620938 )
    Everyone seems to be focusing on Estonia & overlooking the big question raised by this article: Is Internet access a basic right?

    How much different would the discussions below look if it had been German, England, Brazil, or the U.S.?

    Perhaps /. has become too Estonia-centric? ;-)

    Oh yeah, IMO, it is preposterous to propose Internet access as a basic right when literacy, healthcare, housing & even potable water aren't universally accepted as basic rights, regardless of the country. No slam agains

  • by oervi ( 677014 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @02:59PM (#6378252)
    As an Estonian it's pretty interesting for me to read about "the magical technoparadise of Estonia". While it's definitely true that internet access is extremely widespread and pretty cheap (my 512kb connection costs about 17$ per month), in most other areas Estonia is still far behind Western Europe and the US. For example, the majority of people in Tallinn live in what Americans would call "the projects" - huge concrete buildings built during the Soviet era. Also, healthcare and other public services are often on the edge of chaos (often you have to wait for over 2 months for a dentist's appointment, for example). But there is one other area in which Estonia is WAY ahead of the West and that is our women - every foreigner i've met has told me that the women in Estonia are the most beautiful in the world :)
  • personal impressions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nuffle ( 540687 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @03:05PM (#6378289)
    I visited Estonia about two months ago (I'm an American) and will be moving to Tallinn, the capital, in about three months. I was fortunate to meet an Estonian studying in western Maryland. She has to head back to Estonia soon to finish her degree, and I will be following her, working remotely for my current US employer.

    I was very personally impressed with the internet infrastructure there. It was an encouraging sight to enter a very small town by car and see a sign that said "this area covered by public wireless internet". And if they weren't covered by wireless, one of the first informational signs you'd see as you entered a town was "Internet this way -->" (usually directing you to a library).

    Of course, seeing signs is different than working and living there, but from visiting my friend's family members, it does seem that fast internet is ubiquitous and inexpensive.
  • crackers in estonia (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SlapAyoda ( 6041 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @03:18PM (#6378357) Homepage
    As the "Security guy" for a medium-sized datacenter, I saw that Estonia is perhaps second only to Belaruse in terms of number of attacks on our network. The number of Estonian crackers is extremely high, more so than Korea/Vietnam/anywhere in Asia.
  • But where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? /rockapella
  • by m9 ( 226271 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @03:27PM (#6378403)
    Just some statistics from someone who lives in Estonia:

    Starman Cable
    64/32 = 149EEK = 11$ = 10
    512/128 = 295EEK = 23$ = 20
    1024/320 = 495EEK = 38$ = 33

    Estonian Telephone ADSL:
    256/128 = 295EEK = 23$ = 20
    512/256 = 495EEK = 38$ = 33

    Cable is only available in the bigger cities, ASDL is available almost whereever there is a telephone line. There is no limit on how much you can download. 11$/month for an always-on connection which is faster than a dialup is quite cheap IMO.

    And whereever even the telephone lines don't go, you've got GPRS which is relatively cheap compared to other countries (from ~2.5 to ~0.7 $/ per MB!)

    All of my friends have internet access. Only one of them has dialup. Even my grandmother surfs on the net! My grandfather doesn't though... Some older people fear the internet.. (i'm not touching that computer, i'll brake it!), but almost everybody (at least in the cities) has used internet/computer in their lives..

  • RIAAs new targets since they can not spend US p2p users into bankruptcy..

  • by targo ( 409974 ) <targo_t@hotma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Sunday July 06, 2003 @04:09PM (#6378679) Homepage
    As someone who comes from Estonia, let me offer a few reasons on how this change happened:
    1) Geographic and cultural closeness to Finland. Finland is one of the most wired countries in the world, and the multitudes of cell-phone carrying Finns crossing the border to buy cheap booze left a strong impression, creating more demand for telecommunications infrastructure. Never underestimate the power of neighborly envy :)
    2) Liberal and fast growing banking system. Banking was probably the fastest growing sector in Estonian economy in the nineties, being built from ground up and supported by the fiscal policy of the government. Estonian banks invested heavily in technology and as a result I could do more in an Estonian online bank (like sending money to anyone in the country in a matter of seconds, free of charge) in 1995 than I can do today in a US online bank.
    3) Prioritizing computer and Internet education in schools. This was a fortunate brainchild of some younger politicians, and as a result computers are a natural thing in younger people's lives now. See this link [] or the Tiger Leap site [] for more information.
  • by Pedrito ( 94783 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @04:12PM (#6378699)

    I used to write software for wireless (cellular, GSM, CDMA, PCS, etc) network engineers. We sold our software to a company in Estonia that was building out a GSM system.

    A little over 7 years ago, I had to go over there for 10 days to do a little customer support for our software. My trip was only supposed to take 3 days, but Fed Ex didn't exactly have next day service there, at least not then.

    I was amazed by how far Estonia had come, technologically, in such a short time, and they have continued, obviously, since. They already had pretty excellent wireless phone service and pretty comprehensive coverage.

    What I learned while I was there was that the Estonian language is very similar to Finnish, and because of this and other reasons, the Estonians had a very close relationship with Finland. It was through this relationship that they were actually able to grow faster than Lithuania or Latvia (its neighboring Baltic states).

    In fact, Estonia is a mere hop from Finland. As I recall, the flight (in a Soviet-era pond hopper, which scared the s@#t out of me) took about 20 minutes from Helsinki. There's also a ferry that moves between the two, and from what I was told, a lot of people went back and forth for business.

    My only other recollections of Estonia is that it was freezing cold (I was there in October, and it's roughly as far north as Alaska, in case you're an American and want a reference) and the women were gorgeous. But unfortunately, at least as far as the people I dealt with, I found them to be about as cold as the country.

  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <`dadinportland' `at' `'> on Sunday July 06, 2003 @06:22PM (#6379357) Homepage Journal
    Any more then reading a newspaper is a right.

    The abiity to speak freely is a right. The internet, newpapers, magazines, etc... are just metods in which to exersize the right to speak freely.

    Now, gevenment program to ensure the the people have the ability to speak freely through various methods is another matter.
  • by Quietti ( 257725 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @09:41PM (#6380234) Journal

    Disclaimer: I am not Estonian. However, I have previously worked for an Estonian company and been to Estonia and Latvia quite often and I still have many good friends there. I also speak decent Estonian, fluent Finnish and bits of Latvian and Lithuanian.


    Estonian is not an Indo-European language; it has very little in common with e.g. English, German, French, etc. Instead, it is a Fenno-Ugric language that is very close to Finnish and a distant cousin to Hungarian.

    Meanwhile, Latvian and Lithuanian are very much Indo-Europeans and the oldest living languages of the tree. They feature words that come from as far as India's Sanscript and also have words in common with every branch of the Indo-european family. As such, they share a lot with Slavic (Russian, Polish, Czech, etc.) and Germanic (Dutch, Scandinavian) languages. While my knowledge of Latvian is extremely limitted, I find bits of German, Swedish, Russian and even French in both the vocabulary and grammar. Yet, some of the words sounds like nothing else in the other languages and would probably date back to Proto-European languages or Sanscript.


    The Baltics have been under the domination of just about every major European power throughout history: Russia, Danemark, Sweden, Germany, Poland. As such, people's roots, particularly in Estonia, are quite diverse. As a former collegue was commenting: "What does it mean to be Estonian? Our ancestors are either Polish, Danish, Finnish, Swedish or God knows what. Few of us have actually got Fenno-Ugric blood all the way back; the only thing we have in common, is that we all speak Estonian."

    The two most important phases of foreign dominations were the Hanseatic League and the Soviet Union. The first was Germany's answer to Sweden's conquest of Finland, Carelia, Ingria and Northern Russia in an attempt to control trade routes around the Baltic rim, while the later was the result of sham elections held during the Soviet force invasion near the end of the World War II.

    The Soviet era forever altered the ethnic background of Estonia and especially Latvia, resulting in a large influx of Russians (plus some Ukrainians and Bielorussians) from poor rural areas being relocated there as labour force and military personel. Nowadays, Estonia's population counts about 30% of Russian-speaking former Soviet expats, while Latvia has over 40% of them. Lithuania was spared from this forced colonization, having maintained an 80% purely Lithuanian ethnic composition.

    Technology in the Baltics

    During the Soviet era, the three Baltic states became USSR's key engineering center. Estonia got a top-notch Cybernetics Institute that produced some of USSR's most top-secret military electronics, in the Tallinn suburb of Mustamae, while Latvia produced the railway equipement and home appliances for a large part of USSR. (I am unfortunately not familiar with what role Lithuania played - can someone fill in these blanks?)

    During the Glasnost introduced by Gorbachev in the 80s, that engineering know-how started being applied to non-military needs, which produced, among other things, audiophile and video equipment such as those made by the company Estonia. Having personally heard their pristine sound, I can say that they compare extremely well to those pricey Scandinavian audiophile speakers and amplifiers. Latvia also had a similar brand, whose name I forgot, whose success was less noticable.

    How Estonia became an Internet and PKI Mecca

    While the Baltics had been a somewhat cozy travel destination famous for its white sandy beaches and spas (before and during the Soviet era), its infrastructure started falling appart during the Glasnost. As such, once the 3 countries regained their independance in the early 90s, rebuilding them was among the top priorities.

    The phone network dated from the early part of the century and hardly reached rural areas. It was of course all analog. Scandinavian telephone compan

  • by Wateshay ( 122749 ) <bill,nagel&gmail,com> on Sunday July 06, 2003 @10:29PM (#6380443) Homepage Journal
    First off, I'd like to say that I think what Estonia is doing is for the most part a good thing. However, I think they're treading on somewhat dangerous ground with their use of the term "human right" (although the article was a little vague, so I may be wrong about how they're viewing it). Rights are things that no one should be denied. Free speech is a right. Freedom of religion is a right. Freedom to not be searched by the police without a warrant is a right. Freedom to not be denied access to the internet by the government is a right. Where the use of the term "right" gets a bit dangerous, though, is when you say that someone has a right that requires action on the part of someone else to fulfill. People don't have a right to free internet access provided by the government, because limited resources may make that impossible, or at least put that at odds with other so-called rights. It's the same way that people have a free speech right, but no right to free airtime on NBC.

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