Are you e-ready for an e-address?

Members of the public in Latvia are being urged to sort out and use their 'e-adrese' (electronic address), 'eParaksts' (electronic signature) and 'eID karte' (electronic ID card) to benefit from easier access to a range of services and methods of official communication in future.

From January 1, 2023, the use of an e-address is mandatory for companies and other legal entities listed in official registers. It is not yet mandatory for private individuals, but officials are preaching the benefits of getting fully e-organized sooner rather than later, for example on January 16 Latvian Radio discussion show Kā labāk dzīvot (How to live better).

The e-address initiative was developed by the State Regional Development Agency in cooperation with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development.

Changes to the law on electronic identification of natural persons, which expand the possibilities of using e-signatures, come into force on February 1. Uģis Bisenieks, Director of the State Administration Services Development Department of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, and Vineta Sprugaine, Head of the Corporate Communication Department of the Latvian State Radio and Television Center, presented the changes in as positive and logical a light as possible, though some listeners might have been forgiven for finding the hour-long discussion bewildering given the proliferation of e-items and recommendations.

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"Not infrequently, people think that the e-ID card is just a piece of plastic to show when traveling within the borders of the European Union. The significant added value is the digital environment. If we can receive various services digitally, there are hundreds and thousands of them. One [use] is the state and homepages of local government institutions, merchants are also diligent e-signature implementers, and various places have integrated entering or signing documents [virtually]," said Vineta Sprugaine.

She added that without using the digital environment, people can waste time and money on physical visits.

Data show that in 2022, more people signed documents using an eID card than the e-Signature mobile app. Sprugaine also reminded listeners that an e-ID card will be mandatory from May 1.

Changes to the Law on Electronic Identification of Natural Persons enter into force on February 1, which stipulate that merchants who provide e-services to identify their customers must also provide this opportunity with the national electronic identification tools eParaksts mobile and the eID card, which has legal force as an identity document.

"It was a long road, but it has come closer to the finish line, when the amendments to the law come into force, which obliges merchants to provide the opportunity - to enter their portals with national tools - an e-ID card or an e-signature," said Sprugaine. "Why is this necessary? First of all, if the state has provided the technology of these tools, it is logical that we expand the possibilities of use. Second, there are people who do not have Internet banking... Third, I invite you to think about how much time you spend on password 'recovery'? This helps to deal with the 'password anxiety' of having one tool for different situations in life, both very formal and legally binding, and downright mundane." 

But if you want to sort out your online identity, whether as a business or as a private individual, how do you go about it?

The first stop should be the official information website https://mana.latvija.lv/. Unfortunately, this is available in Latvian only, but you can select 'E-ADRESE IEDZĪVOTĀJIEM' (e-address for residents) or 'E-ADRESE UZŅĒMĒJIEM' (e-address for businesses) from the drop-down menu to head in the general right direction and automatic translation will be of some use if necessary.

For individuals, it is explained that an "e-adrese is a secure communication service – your digital mailbox on the portal Latvija.lv. It is a convenient, secure and efficient way to communicate with more than 3,400 state and municipal authorities at any time and from any location."

However, it should be noted that you cannot send letters or emails from your e-adrese to other citizens or companies, unless they are part of the state administration. So it is not something you could use instead of your existing email account, for example, except when carrying out official or legal business. But if you do create an e-adrese on the portal Latvija.lv, in the future state and municipal authorities will contact you via this digital mailbox, and not in paper format at your declared address. This certainly makes things easier for the state administration apparatus itself.

e-adrese information leaflet

Publicity materials are currently available from libraries and government offices, but these too, can be a bit confusing. For example, this leaflet shows the process as a flowchart which involves logging on, choosing an e-address, confirming your identity by means of an eID card or eSignature (which involves a whole other setup), checking the details and adding your regular email address which can receive news about your e-address. If that is all complete you should be able to access a special portion of the official Latvija.lv portal.

The official state portal Latvija.lv does have an English-language option, though not all of the content is available in English: https://latvija.lv/en. Indeed, clicking on the 'e-services' link (https://latvija.lv/Epakalpojumi) will take you to a strange mixture of English and Latvian content.

The full list of available e-services is here: https://latvija.lv/Saites – but take note that you will likely have to scroll down the page past lots of Latvian language bulletins about technical problems and parts of the e-system that aren't actually working at the moment before you get to the links you are looking for.

Right at the bottom of the page is an English-language video about the various e-services available... but it is four years old and therefore not particularly useful.

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There are other videos available on the official portal's official YouTube channel about e-addresses and eID, some of them urging immediate action, but again they are all in Latvian without subtitles or captions available.

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Another option for help and advice, albeit one that is completely contrary to the notion of doing everything online is to book a visit to a state and district united client services center. A list of where they are located, with a map and contact details can be found at: https://www.varam.gov.lv/vpvkac

LSM has asked the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development if it has plans to provide more up-to-date English-language materials about e-services and will add their response here when we receive it. 

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