The Faroe Islands are on a mission. The mission is to transform the administrative infrastructure of the entire country to a digital one by 2020. The plan is serious, efficient and on the right track towards its goal.

This project, undertaken by the Ministry of Finance in the Faroe Islands, called Digital Faroe Islands aims to give all of its 50,000 residents an online identity which can be used for all purposes. The underlying motivation for such a transformative project is not just ease of accessibility for all the residents, but carries a deeper symbolic meaning in the sense that it paints the picture of the Faroe Islands as a technologically advanced nation. It aims that with this approach, it is able to attract its young as well as old population back to their roots and work for its betterment. It predicts that the more jobs created by this project in the field of digital infrastructure and communications, the more competent people, engaged in these fields around the globe, will be attracted by the Faroe Islands.

In the earlier days, the only modes of transport on these islands were by foot or horse or rowboat. Hence the ability of the people to get from one place to the other was largely dependent on the weather. So meetings and businesses were generally held with a “maybe” approach rather than a well planned one. Hence it got its name “maybe” islands. But this digital project is going to change the entire outlook of the people and way of administration.

The words of Kristina Háfoss, Minister of Finance in the Faroe Islands, nicely sum up the motivation of this project: “The technicalities of this project are novel and innovative on its own, but it’s just as much the symbolic part of a project like this that is important. With this project, we are creating a digital infrastructure in the Faroe Islands.”

She had further emphasized the specific reason why such a project is crucial for a small country like the Faroe Islands: “You know it’s easier to turn a speedboat around than a supertanker, and this is the strategy and driving force for making the Faroe Islands a role-model in e-governance. In a small society, things are simpler. In the legal framework, in government and in general. Just the fact that we have fewer systems by being small creates much less legal work and our ability to leapfrog to new solutions. That’s why I believe the Faroe Islands can become world class competitors on e-governance, and a truly digitized society, providing us with competitiveness in an ever-increasing globalized world.”

The blueprint of the project is based on an approach invented by the Estonian nation (which is successfully running e-governance) called the X-road interoperability system. This approach is safe, secure and ensures availability of data across all platforms that are a part of this infrastructure. All day to day applications like paying electricity bills, lodging complaints, doctor appointments, banking, admissions can be done through the same common portal. From the looks of it, it seems like the first step into the world of the future.

A private key will be given to each individual through an app on his/her phone. This along with a username and password, comprises the entire digital signature. Slowly but surely, this identity can not only be used in the Faroe Islands, but also the whole of EU since it is compatible with the EU regulations.

The Digital Faroe Islands project is headed by Nicolai Mohr Balle. He says: “Digitalization is of crucial importance for a small country. Especially a country like ours, that boasts itself of having a welfare society – that type of welfare society only remains relevant if we keep it modern at the same time.” This digital project is a commendable step by the Faroese Government to embrace technology for the betterment of its people and in the process, establish itself as one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world.

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