Estonia and World Health Organization digitally sign cooperation agreement

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas and World Health Organization Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus signing the memorandum on October 5.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas and World Health Organization Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus signing the memorandum on October 5. Source: Stenbock House.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) and World Health Organization (WHO) Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus signed an agreement on Monday (October 5) to allow Estonian entrepreneurs and researchers to start working on a digital immunization certificate and interoperability projects.

A memorandum of understanding was signed by both men during a video conference.

Estonia's first project will be working with the yellow vaccination card which will enable a reliable and transparent cross-border exchange of vaccination data. It can be used once the coronavirus vaccine has been developed.

Ratas said in a pandemic the world needs an organization like the WHO to inspire trust and act as a "safe and trustworthy place where member states can seek guidance if needed".

"Our pilot project presents an extraordinary opportunity for the Estonian community to help the world in the fight against COVID-19 and to make our experience of building digital services global," he said.

Ratas said he hopes the digitization of the vaccination card will open the door to wider cooperation. "The next step would be to create a global trust architecture that member states and the WHO could easily use to create any other cross-border service, paving the way for a truly global exchange of health data."

Ghebreyesus said: "The memorandum we signed today establishes a valuable cooperation framework for digital health and innovation. We are excited to work with Estonia and other stakeholders to develop digital tools that can help to deliver high-quality, people-centered, and evidence-informed care."

The WHO is currently finalizing its broader digital health strategy for 2020-25 and Estonia hopes to play a role in this. Estonia is now involved in the WHO Digital Health Technical Advisory Group and it means there will be many new opportunities to use Estonian X-Road solutions. 

Steps will be taken to introduce the X-Road data exchange on a global basis, to allow either WHO or its member states to set up various cross-border services.

Preparation for the WHO cooperative work will start this month.

Estonian company Guardtime will lead first project stage

Guardtime will lead the first stage of the implementation with a 12-week pilot of a digital International Certificate of Vaccination "yellow card", validating the ability of the infrastructure to scale to billions of vaccination recipients, across multiple countries, including Estonia.

The platform will be based on KSI Blockchain, an EU-EIDAS certified trust service and X-Road, Estonia's data sharing platform, and will test the following functions:

  • Proof of vaccination: similar to the International Certificate of Vaccination or "yellow card", a secure COVID-19 vaccination certificate will play a critical role as economies reopen and international travel resumes.
  • Priority management eligibility: Establish a governance mechanism for prioritized populations. It will be important for member states to assure a fair and accountable process in this context.
  • Monitor uptake among target population: subnational, national, and global monitoring of vaccine uptake will be essential to manage the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccination and reduce COVID-19 transmission.

More information can be read here.

What is the X-Road?

X-Road® software based solution X-tee is the backbone of the Estonian e-state. It allows the nation's various public and private sector e-service information systems to link up and function in harmony. It is used by more than 1,000 organizations and enterprises every day.

Estonia's e-solution environment includes a full range of services for the general public, and since each service has its own information system they all use X-tee to communicate. To ensure secure transfers, all outgoing data is digitally signed and encrypted, and all incoming data is authenticated and logged.

It connects different information systems that may include a variety of services. It has developed into a tool that can also write to multiple information systems, transmit large data sets and perform searches across several information systems simultaneously.

The service has also been implemented in Finland, Kyrgyzstan, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Japan and other countries. Similar technology has also been implemented in Ukraine and Namibia.

Read more here.

Overview of Estonia's X-Road approach. Source: (


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Editor: Helen Wright

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