Cyberconscripts: Estonian Draftees Can Choose IT Over Infantry

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A woman sits on February 28, 2011 in Tallinn in front of a computer to vote in the Estonian general election. Data showed on March 3 that a record number of Estonians cast on Internet ballots in the Baltic state's general election, still the only parliamentary poll in the world with an online option. Although the general election is on March 6, Estonians who did not want to turn out in person had the right to cast Internet votes via a secure system between February 24 and March 2. Their confidential ballots -- which can be sent from any computer provided the user has downloaded special software and logs onto a secure site with an encoded ID card -- will be counted on election day just like the paper equivalents. (Photo Credit: RAIGO PAJULA/AFP/Getty Images)

The tiny Baltic nation of Estonia is experimenting with the idea of cyberconscription, a move that gives draftees with tech skills the chance to work shoring up their military’s electronic infrastructure, an Estonian defense official said Tuesday.

The experiment involves between 10 and 20 draftees, Estonian defense official Erki Kodar told The Associated Press. It began last summer and will be evaluated after the conscription cycle ends in June.

Estonia’s compulsory military service means teens can serve between eight to 11 months in the military depending on their role on whether they serve as sailors, soldiers or in other roles.

Those accepted as cyberconscripts can expect to pass their time on a help desk or doing programming work, Kodar said.

Government agencies and militaries across the world have long struggled to attract and keep cybersecurity professionals in the face of fierce private-sector competition, and Kodar said the plan could be a way of drawing them into the country’s military or its reserves. In any case he said it made sense to avoid wasting information technology talent.

“Maybe a highly skilled IT specialist, it’s not good to get them as drivers,” he said.

Estonia’s cyberconscript plan is unusual, but many militaries — including France, whose cyberdefense reserves had a booth at the conference — have some kind of a call-up force of information security professionals.