As part of an effort to make sure its citizens have the maximum opportunity to exercise their democratic rights, Estonia has become the first country in the world to allowing voting by SMS.

The Baltic state, which gained independence from the USSR in 1991, passed a law last week that paves the way for mobile-phone voting in the elections that are due in 2011.

Special chips

After successful trials of online PC voting in last year's poll, the lawmakers in Estonia have now approved the use of special chips that link each phone to its owner to verify when votes are cast by text message.

The resulting digital signature is said to be as close to fully secure as possible, removing worries about identity fraud and hacking.