Estonia is leading the way to a digital, globalised future

Siim Sikkut
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Today, the growth of the digital economy is blurring the lines between countries

It is no secret that the pace of technological change is accelerating.

Look no further than the tabloids for headlines on the rise of service sector automation, or the imminent arrival of driverless cars.

Technology is changing the rules of the game as it always has. Businesses have been quick to learn – harnessing the latest advances to provide consumers with goods and services that were once firmly confined to the realms of science fiction.

Read more: Estonia is ramping up its efforts to woo British entrepreneurs after Brexit

As science fiction becomes science-fact-of-life, companies are using technology to upend traditional working models and deliver the next-generation of products and services. Digitisation has permitted collaboration and competition at a truly international level, allowing entrepreneurs and businesses to work across borders to generate growth.

But as private sector companies march into the distance, the onus is now on governments to play their part in managing digital transformation, adapting themselves to keep pace with the new times.

Governments must realise that organisations and individuals are looking to use digital disruption, which is turning established wisdom on its head, to make their way by operating across a global digital economy that allows anyone to work from anywhere.

In Estonia, almost all of our citizens’ interactions with the government – including voting – can be done securely online.

But such digital opportunities are not confined just to Estonians.

Our “e-Residency” initiative allows participants the freedom to digitally register a EU-based company, complete with a business banking account and full remote digitally capability from anywhere in the world.

By leaning on a potent mix of technology and transnationality, e-Residency has put Estonia at the heart of the conversation on digital disruption and its role in building a globalised, interconnected technology economy.

Our e-Residents are representative of the way technology can be leveraged to diversify the workforce, exposing organisations to an array of new ideas and working cultures from all corners of the globe.

Whereas other nations are closing their doors to talent from abroad, we want to make it as easy as possible for the most innovative minds to work in and via Estonia, using technology to do so.

We have seen first-hand the benefits a country can experience by drawing on the strength of skilled people from all over the planet, as businesses and individuals work collaboratively across borders to set the innovation agenda and underwrite growth.

Digital initiatives like e-Residency are crucial tools for realigning the role of government in the Information Age, as the ground that the well-trodden economic and political consensus is built on starts to shift beneath our feet.

Today, the growth of the digital economy is blurring the lines between countries, and geography has started to decouple from productivity entirely.

Take the home-working revolution. Businesses have started to embrace the mobile workforce, encouraging their employees to work from home, a co-working space, or even the local Starbucks.

We accept this as a given, but what happens when we apply the same logic on a global scale? If I can work remotely from down the road, what’s to stop me from working remotely from another country?

Moreover, when governments can offer e-Residency to anyone, regardless of nationality or location, individuals everywhere will soon find themselves embracing the lifestyle of the digital nomad – a tech savvy, location-independent group of workers that will number at least a billion by 2035.

This process is already underway. We are currently seeing a growing number of people who work independently of any single company or even single country, choosing to work one week in Bogota and the next in Berlin – often for several organisations at a time.

There’s a burgeoning consensus that entrepreneurs and businesses succeed when cooperating and collaborating across national boundaries, rather than battling against them. Businesses throughout Europe, including those in the UK, are looking to ride a new wave of technological development and geographical flexibility to drive growth and spark new ideas.

This is why Estonia is pioneering the first truly global digital nation state. Our vision is to build a twenty-first century economy by using e-Residency to offer everyone – regardless of nationality or location – access to useful digital services that diversify access to talent, ideas and economic and intellectual capital.

By sailing with the prevailing winds of technological revolution, governments can make sure that they too play their part in building a global digital economy that works to benefit everyone.

The path forward is clear. We should celebrate businesses embracing the twin forces of digitisation and globalisation, but we must also make sure that governments follow suit.

Read more: Estonia could be the first country to do its own initial coin offering

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