International MA programme Politics and Governance in the Digital Age

Programme Manager: Prof. Dr. Dr. Robert Krimmer 

Programme Coordinator: Dr. Liisa Talving 

Is digital transformation taking over the society? How are governments tackling secure data exchange and cybersecurity? How is and how should data analytics be employed in politics and governance? Are governments and public institutions allowed to profile citizens? Could digital transformation lead to greater discontent with politics and renewed authoritarian tendencies? How can democratic political leaders govern with higher efficiency whilst respecting citizens’ data privacy? 

These are important challenges to tackle, especially in the digital era. The MA programme in Politics and Governance in the Digital Age offers you the knowledge and skills for this enquiry.

This MA programme integrates key fundamentals of governance, digital transformation and data analysis as essential aspects of political developments in the contemporary world. Understanding digital governance is key for building a successful career in modern government, digital civil society, politics or international organisations. Read more here

The programme provides in-depth knowledge about core topics of political science such as modern political institutions, elections, political behaviour and ethics, combined with data-driven governance, e-democracy and critical thinking in the digital society. This is reinforced by training in data analytics, research methods and quantitative and qualitative analysis techniques.

The master programme will be fully taught in English. No knowledge of Estonian is required to gain the master's degree. 

Application deadlines for 2022: 

  • March 15 - application deadline

  • May 15 - admission results

Why come and study Politics and Governance in the Digital Age at University of Tartu?

  1. To learn the ‘nuts and bolts’ of politics and public policy: how to analyse and shape political processes
  2. To gain insight into the effects that digital transformation has on politics and modern governance
  3. To experience first-hand how e-democracy and e-governance can affect different aspects of life, as the City of Tartu and the country of Estonia are at the forefront of digital democracy
  4. For the opportunity to meet the policy makers, developers and technology companies that are leading the public sector digital transformation.
  5. Overall, you will learn how the digital transformation affects society and how to make use of it for a better future.

Lecture series on digital governance. autumn 2021.

Every month on the second Friday in Zoom we will discuss different aspects of digital governance with high-level researchers and practitioners from Estonia and abroad. The lectures will be fully online in Zoom, in English and  moderated by Professor Krimmer. 

Please pre-register
on the following link:  Registration to Zoom lectures. After pre-registration we will send you instructions to connect to the online lecture. 

15. October 2021 at 11-12 CET – Prof Vincent Homburg (Erasmus University Rotterdam/University of Tartu) "Social Media in Citizen-Government Relations Around the World"

Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook offer new opportunities for co-production and interaction between citizens and governments. Current literatures have studied adoption of social media by governments (that is, we roughly know why governments are present on social media platforms), but until date, scarce attention has been given to social media adoption by citizens. In other words, a relevant question is why some citizens would use social media to voice their concerns and publicly report poor public performance, whereas other citizens refrain from using social media for social and political engagement. A follow-up question could be whether citizens' reactions are different in democratic regimes as opposed to authoritarian regimes. Vincent Homburg reports findings from the COSMICS project (COmparative Study of social Media in Citizen-State relations) and discusses analyses of original survey data gathered in Algeria, Canada, China, Greece, Kenya, The Netherlands, Pakistan and Paraguay. In his talk, Vincent will elaborate on the relevance of citizens’ trust in government for citizen participation, and whether and if so under what conditions social media are suitable platforms for co-production and participation.

BIO: Prof Vincent Homburg is a Visiting Professor of E-Governance in the University of Tartu and an Associate Professor of Public Administration in the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Currently, his research focuses on e-government (both as a national, Dutch phenomenon, as well as in comparative research).

Prof Homburg has published more than sixty peer-reviewed articles and chapters on public management and information systems, and co-edited The Information Ecology of E-Government (IOS Press) and New Public Management in Europe, Adaptation and Alternatives (Palgrave MacMillan). He also authored Understanding E-Government: Information Systems in Public Administration (Routledge Taylor & Francis). Prof Homburg has been cited over 2700 times, with Hirsch index of 22 according to Google Scholar (2021).

In 2018, he was highly commended in John Stewart Prize for best paper published in Local Government Studies and in 2015, he was the nominee Erasmus University Rotterdam Education Award.

Prof Homburg teaches Democratic Innovations and Network Governance in the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies in the University of Tartu, and 10 BA, MA and PhD level courses in the Erasmus University Rotterdam on public management theory, methodology and public information systems. He also teaches professionals on Government and Information Society. Over the years he has supervised over 250 MA students and 10 PhD students.


12.November 2021 at 13-14 CET – Prof Rune Halvorsen (Oslo Metropolitan University) "How does digitalized social services foster or hamper social citizenship? Comparing policies to promote digital freedom among disabled people" 

European welfare states are undergoing unprecedented structural transformations with increasing digitization of social services. These technological transformations have the potential to relocate life chances in ways that are likely to be asymmetrical in terms of who are able to benefit from them. Some scholars claim that digital transformation entails a paradigmatic shift, leaving citizens a new and more active role via-a-vis the public sector. Others argue that focus on efficiency in service delivery makes digital government part of the established NPM-paradigm. Digitalized social services can provide better monitoring of eligibility criteria, application processes and outcomes. Digital platforms have the potential to make information about social services more available to the public and provide more cost-effective, standardised and automatized assessments of applications for services in cash and in kind. Interactive digital technologies can provide bilateral communication channels for claimants and clients of public welfare services to communicate with key decision-makers. While digitalization has potential benefits to government agencies there are also risks of exclusion and widening of social inequalities. 

Persons with disabilities have often not benefited from innovation in and the use of digitalized services. In this presentation Rune Halvorsen outlines a framework to compare digital inclusion policies for the disabled people in European welfare states and the EU.

BIO: Rune Halvorsen, Dr.polit. in Sociology, is Professor of Social Policy and Program Director for the MA programme in International Social Welfare and Health Policy at Oslo Metropolitan University.

Halvorsen’s central concern is to contribute new knowledge for the future social Europe. His main interests are European and comparative welfare policy, social citizenship, citizenship movements and voice in the welfare state. Recent research projects have focused on Active Citizenship, poverty, disability, youth transitions and theorisation of structure/agency dynamics in the welfare state.

From 2019, he is a board member of the Nordic ESPAnet – Network for European Social Policy Analysis and a council member at the Nordic Centre, Fudan University, Shanghai. In the past, he has served on several national and international funding and peer review panels, including for the Research Council of Norway, the Research Foundation – Flanders, Belgium, the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research, the European Union Ambient Assisted Living programme, Policy Press, and Luxembourg National Research Fund.


10.December 2021 at 11-12 CET – Dan Bogdanov (Cybernetica) "Privacy and security technologies for data-driven policymaking"

In the data-driven world, policy-makers have to deal with anticipation, planning, monitoring, and evaluation of policies (read eg. "The OECD Digital Government Policy Framework" for more). To prepare data for the decision-making, they have to combine and aggregate data from several data sources to the government data warehouse or data lake. In this process, they have to have compliance with privacy regulations and not to scare off the citizens.

BIO: Dr. Dan Bogdanov met his first significant privacy challenges while working with the data collection systems of the Estonian Genome Center. This inspired him to start researching cryptographic solutions for privacy problems. He is the inventor of Sharemind, a secure multi-party computation system for collecting, sharing and processing private data. Sharemind is a new kind of computer that analyses digital data without seeing the individual values. This achieves beyond-the-state-of-the-art data protection, as has been demonstrated in various applications processing tax, education, genomic and financial data.

Dr. Bogdanov has been a research team lead for multiple privacy technology research projects with DARPA – an agency of the United States Department of Defense, European FP7 and Horizon 2020. He is the co-author of the ISO/IEC 29101 standard on the architecture of privacy-preserving systems and the ISO/IEC 19592 standard on secret sharing. Today, Dr. Bogdanov leads the Information Security Research Institute at Cybernetica, an Estonian company creating information security, e-Governance and maritime security solutions. He is also a board member of the MPC Alliance, an industry organisation of companies developing and using secure multi-party computation technology.

Spring 2021 Lecture series “Security, Democracy and the Digital World” with President Toomas Hendrik Ilves 

President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Visiting Professor of Democracy in the Digital Age in University of Tartu, is giving a series of lectures on “Security, Democracy and the Digital World” in spring semester 2021.  The lecture series is curated by Robert Krimmer, Professor of E-governance, Programme Manager for Politics and Governance in the Digital Age Master's Programme

You can find short overview and the lecture recording below. 

17. February 2021. Societal disruption and political transformation. 

Key points that are covered in this lecture: 

  • C.P. Snow and his theory of parallel processes. Digital governance, minimum standards, security privacy, and two-factor authentication.
  • The widening gap between science/technology and the non-tech community, where technology advances far more rapidly than the legal and regulatory framework that should allow tech.
  • Authoritarian nations do not have to worry about the consent of the governed, privacy and rule of law in the digital sphere. Liberal democracies do.
  • Digitalization is overturning 5000 years of bureaucracy and state management, operation in parallel rather than sequentially/in series. Digital governance and near instantaneous processing require new requirements and safeguards on governance and privacy, where in the paper world none existed.
  • Minimum requirements for secure digital governance, as we have come to understand, depend upon security, privacy and data integrity.
  • Technological advances and widespread access to tech have led to unforeseen, and radical changes in society that we are in the middle of, and that are on par with the kinds of revolutions we have seen earlier with the printing press with movable type and the steam engine.

17. March 2021. Threats to democracy in the digital era 

  • In parallel with technological development, the emergence of “hacking” and “insider threats”. What is hacking and what does it mean? Types of “hacking”. Moonlight Mile and hacking, and the transformation of espionage. Emergence of Logic bombs and Sub-rosa sabotage in cyber war, SCADA attacks, Stuxnet computer worm, and Ransomware.
  • Offensive DDOS attack in Estonia in 2007; The first nation-state attack and “the continuation of policy by other means”. Hybrid digital/kinetic attacks. “Public-Private Partnerships” or State and criminal actor co-operation.

14. April 2021. Changing nature of truth, politics, security and war in the Digital era 

  • The rise of fake news, targeted advertising and weaponization of social media for political ends. A brief history of disinformation and its instrumentalization in the Digital era. From Ukraine to UK, the US and French elections: the hybridization of digital methods.
  • On the spread of disinformation and its impact on politics, conspiracy theories and democratic processes. Solomon Asch conformity experiments. Imagined communities, Dunning-Kruger effect and the death of expertise. Multiple truths and the Overton Window.
  • International agreements and norms. National sovereignty vs sovereign corporations. COVID App, blackmailing nations.

12. May 2021. Future developments in politics and governance 

  • The changing nature of security as we move from kinetic to digital. “Continuing policy by other means” where mass, distance and time, the classical determinants of force, no longer matter.
  • Diverging paths between Chinese “algorithmic authoritarianism” and the US’ “surveillance capitalism”. Where will privacy-fixated Europe fit?
  • Techno-economic competition and blackmail.

The lecture series is supported by ECePS ERA Chair in e-governance and digital public services project (Horizon 2020 grant agreement No 857622).