President: Estonians should have built HealthCare.gov

The Obama administration’s disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov may have happened because it didn't turn to Estonia, President Obama joked on Wednesday.

During a press conference in Tallinn, Estonia, after meeting with President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Obama praised the northern European nation’s progress in moving many government functions online.

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In Estonia, the vast majority of the nation’s 1.3 million residents can easily file taxes, vote and gain access to their digital health records online.

“With their digital IDs, Estonians can use their smartphones to get just about anything done online — from their children’s grades to their health records,” Obama said.

“I should have called the Estonians when we were setting up our healthcare website.”

Estonia’s digital access relies on an electronic signature system that allows people to prove their identity well enough to sign legally binding contracts online or submit government documents.

That has led to a much more efficient government, supporters claim, as well as new government transparency and a better environment for businesses.

During Wednesday's press conference, Ilves called his country a “world leader in Internet freedom and in e-governance.”

Estonia was the first victim of a cyberattack back in 2007, and since then has rapidly increased protections of national networks and a decentralized digital infrastructure. That investment has led to a new focus on the Internet and a prioritization of ways to use the Web to carry out government functions.

Ilves has said that his country is a model for protecting people online, but has feared that other countries’ concerns about personal privacy might hold them back from following suit.