Skip to content
Smart City Tallin
Laura Puttkamer20. February 20245 min read

Smart City Tallinn: City Portrait

Estonia’s capital city Tallinn is one of the most advanced smart cities in the world. The city by the Baltic Sea is also the cultural hub of Estonia, retaining a beautiful walled Old Town with the famous defensive tower Kiek in de Kök. Many cafés and shops, cobblestoned streets, a Gothic Town Hall and a church from the 13th century make Tallinn a unique and historic city. But where does the title “Tallinn Digital City” come from? Learn more about e-governance and other innovations from the Estonian city!

Accessibility, interoperability, and user-friendliness

Tallinn is a global model for smart cities in Europe and beyond. This is not the most intuitive city: After the fall of the USSR and a large-scale cyber attack in the year 2007, the country was struggling and looking for ways of reinventing itself. With the Estonian Smart City cluster, which focuses on digitalisation, the country found a great answer. Today, 85% of Estonia’s population is connected to broadband, 100% of medical prescriptions are provided online, and 30% of citizens vote electronically. 98% of citizens have a digital identity card which comes with a PIN code and is key to many transactions from bank to retail and transport. Only marriage, divorce and real estate loan contracts are excluded from the omnipresent e-signature.

The three keys to creating a smart urban Estonia are accessibility, interoperability, and user-friendliness, meaning that the user is always at the heart of efforts. Tallinn is an intelligent and digital city that has managed to develop both its urban and its digital landscape. Both the entire nation and the capital city are working to provide efficient, convenient digital services for citizens, visitors, and businesses. This includes common infrastructure for data exchange, the integration of the national e-ID system into authentication mechanisms, and innovations in other areas such as transport – which has been free in Tallinn since 2013 (for residents). The city’s goal for urban mobility is that everyone should be able to reach important places in 15 minutes through public or active transportation.

👉 Learn more about the idea of a 15-minute city here

For Tallinn, being smart means providing good digital services through effective IT solutions. However, for these technologies to work, citizens must be willing and able to use them. Therefore, the definition term “smart” also includes the usefulness for the public. Tallinn is a very digital city with lots of free WiFi, e-services, and open data. In recent years, with this infrastructure up and running, the Estonian capital has focused on involving people more in the planning process to make it smarter and more inclusive.

E-governance and citizen participation

To include citizens in the decision-making and urban planning process, the city of Tallinn is using surveys and polls in a first step. This helps to gauge the opinion and the needs of the public. With a special investment programme, citizens can vote on where parts of the city budget go. A planning register has been in place for a few years now, making urban planning more digital and more public. Citizens can receive notifications about certain areas, send proposals and feedback on architectural drawings and block plans, and communicate with city officials.

The digital participation tool AvaLinn is another example of how Tallinn is improving its e-governance. This mobile application serves as a co-creation tool for gathering feedback and ideas for spatial planning and new developments from citizens. The idea is to invite citizens to share their perspectives and to encourage their active participation.

Other important e-services in Tallinn include the mobile and web applications of public transport, the app for traffic cameras that provides information about traffic jams, and the official web map of Tallinn that shows information about developments in the city space. In total, the city has 86 fully digital e-services, including the application for one-time childbirth allowance, sending queries to archives and administrative libraries, support for entrepreneurs and non-profit organisations, and applications for licences and permits.

Many hundreds of other services are being digitised at the moment, with the city aiming to become fully digital. In the future Tallinn digital city, citizens will be able to apply for and consume their desired services using only electronic channels. The next goal is to make urban planning smarter and use open data as much as possible, using new technologies such as virtual and augmented reality.

Smart Urban Estonia: Green and full of opportunities

In 2020, Tallinn was voted Intelligent Community of the Year by the Intelligent Community Forum. The city scored high for its digital advances, but also its sustainability efforts, ranking as one of the five countries with the cleanest air in the world. Tallinn is known for an abundance of trees in its urban spaces and has a history of protecting the environment since the 13th century. With multiple sustainability strategies, the city wants to achieve zero-emission transport by 2025. In the same year, Tallinn was one of the four contenders for the title of European Green Capital, which led to a new identity as a Green Global City. In 2023, the Estonian capital celebrated its EU Green Capital year, focusing on biodiversity, sustainable governance, and climate and green innovation. This included environmental activities for residents and tourists, as well as defining sustainability goals with other European cities. One of the innovations is a snow-clearing, street-cleaning robot.

The ambitious development strategy “Tallinn 2035” covers challenges such as carbon neutrality, climate change adaptation, innovation, health, mobility, biodiversity, circular economy, sustainable energy, and food production. To increase biodiversity in the city, Tallinn has created GoGreenRoutes as places where citizens can work together on nature-based solutions and urban gardening. A 13-kilometre-long pollinator route will provide meadows that support biodiversity. And rainwater management systems, road reconstructions, trials for self-driving buses and activities for integrating urban vegetation into urban design are being developed to further turn Tallinn into a sustainable future city.

Tallinn’s efforts don’t go unnoticed: In 2023, the city ranked in the IMD Smart City Index report, which is conducted by the Smart City Observatory of the International Institute for Management Development. The experts place Tallinn on rank 32 out of 140 cities, which emphasises Tallinn’s focus on humane features in the smart city, which includes quality of life, environment, and inclusion. Questionnaires and surveys by IMD show that future challenges relate mostly to affordable housing, but also to corruption and road congestion. On the other hand, citizens value the technological opportunities in the digital city of Tallinn, especially the employment finding services, and the e-governance offers such as online voting.



Laura Puttkamer

Laura is an urban journalist focusing on inspiring solutions stories from all over the world. She has a MSc in Global Urban Development and currently lives in London.