In a report published on Tuesday assessing how Estonia’s local government councils use IT systems to process data, the National Audit Office found that plenty of the country’s municipalities don’t pass even the most rudimentary compliance inspections.
Local governments collect data in at least 925 different databases, only 175 of which pass the compulsory primary inspection in RIHA, the administration platform for the state’s information system.
Although the registration of databases has been compulsory for years, almost half of all local governments have not registered a single database in RIHA. According to Estonia’s government gazette, Riigi Teataja, statutes and prescribed procedures exist for just 281 of all these databases. The audit office also found that cities, towns, and municipalities are generally not taking advantage of the technical possibilities for secure data exchange via Estonia’s much-promoted X-road.
According to RIHA, only 54 databases of local governments are interfaced with the X-road system. The data exchange between some databases is a problem simply because information is kept on paper, or using standard office software. The share of such databases is at least 9%.
There are several reasons why these databases don’t get registered. One of the problems, for example, is that local governments do not acknowledge that they actually create a database when they start collecting information of a particular kind, and are not aware of the requirements associated with it.
The definitions and principles concerning databases were still not clear enough, the audit office stated. For example, can a local government decide for which of its functions it will use a database?
Another issue was that creating new central databases, the state hadn’t always paid sufficient attention to the special requirements of local governments.
In its conclusions, the National Audit Office found that it was important to have an overview of the data collected about people, and to ensure that such data was kept prudently. It further stated that it was also important to ensure that people would not have to submit the same data several times in order to get access to public services. The databases of local governments needed to be streamlined in order to reduce security risks related to information systems, and to develop e-services.
Editor: Dario Cavegn