In June, the prime ministers of Estonia, Jüri Ratas, and Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, signed an agreement to establish Estonia’s first “data embassy” in the grand duchy in early 2018. The Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications will allocate €2.2 million for a five-year rental agreement.
Estonia’s virtual embassy will open in a data centre in Betzdorf and will be operated by the Luxembourg government’s centre for information and technology (CTIE). The same data centre is used by the European Commission and Nato, among others.
The concept of a data embassy initiated in Tallinn after the city had become a target of a severe cyber-attack back in 2007. According to a summary report released by the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and Microsoft, Estonian policies largely operate paperless and aim to ensure digital continuity. The report further explains that “the physical data embassy element provides additional measures of security, with a server resource that is completely under Estonian government control, but located outside of Estonia’s borders.”
Luxembourg was chosen as a destination because of the grand duchy’s highly secured data centres and its sufficient geographical distance from the original servers back in Estonia.
The rent and the data expenses are estimated at €236,000 a year in addition to one million spent on developing the project. Electricity costs and the administration will be covered by the Centre of Registers and Information Systems (RIK). 85% of the funding of the project itself will be done by the European Regional Development Fund and the other 15% will be covered by national co-financing.
If the project proves to be a success, chances are that Luxembourg won’t remain the only host of a data embassy.