Quite a few Boston-area businesses have shut down their physical offices. Employees of Amazon, for example, are working from home. Towns and cities, however, can’t close down their respective Town Halls and City Halls because the only way to access quite a few government services is to show up in person. The same enterprise of state/local government that tries, via its public health department, to get everyone to stay home, may ironically end up being one of the only information processing operations that insists that everyone show up and get within contagious distance.
Supposedly Estonia allows citizens to do almost anything that they’d do at a city hall from the disease-free safety of their own homes.
The U.S. track record for government-run IT is admittedly mixed, e.g., with the $1 billion healthcare.gov insurance site. But maybe if we could adopt the Estonian system unmodified for state and local transactions we would be able to save time in non-plague periods and save lives in plague periods.
Readers: What do you think? Should people have to brave coronavirus to get (or issue) a building permit?
- “Estonia, the Digital Republic” (New Yorker, 2017)
- e-Estonia (Wikipedia)
- e-governance (from Estonians themselves): “Estonia is probably the only country in the world where 99% of the public services are available online 24/7. E-services are only impossible for marriages, divorces and real-estate transactions – you still have to get out of the house for those.” (don’t get too excited about those family law transactions; they are not as lucrative as in the U.S. From a 2017 post: “In all three Baltic countries I learned that having sex with the richest person in the country would yield only about 200 euros per month in child support” (similar to nearby Sweden))
- “Estonia: Tough campaign stop for Bernie Sanders”