Friday 26 July 2019 4:05 am

The digital door is always open for Estonia's e-residents of the world

Ott Vatter is managing director at Estonia’s e-Residency programme.

There’s something strange about the apps on your mobile phone and desktop computer.

Take a  look now and see if you can spot what they all have in common.

The apps we choose reflect the services that we most value in order to manage our lives, yet almost all of them were created by the private sector. That’s despite the fact that we pay far more for public services – from health and education to company administration – which have a much bigger impact on our lives. 

So why don’t you have apps that help you access and manage those public services online too?

If you can follow your taxi’s progress through London on your phone, then why not your child’s grades at school? If you can reserve someone’s apartment through an app, then why not a hospital visit? 

If you can set up a bank account in just a few clicks, then why not a company? And if you can send digital money instantly, then why not a contract with a legally-binding digital signature?

In Estonia, we embarked on radical digitisation so that government services can be accessed online from anywhere using a secure digital identity that is issued to all citizens and residents. An Estonian company can now be established and managed entirely online with minimal hassle and costs. That’s part of the reason why you are likely using an app created in Estonia (perhaps without even realising it) like Skype, TransferWise, or Bolt.  

And it’s not just Estonians who get to enjoy this. We launched e-Residency so that anyone in the world can apply for a digital identity from  Estonia, and then use it to start and manage a company online. 

There are now nearly 60,000 Estonian e-residents around the world. 

We don’t want your tax money, because you pay that in the country where you live and work. However, we want to help our e-residents make more connections with Estonians and do more business for their mutual benefit. 

E-residents have already made a significant contribution to our economy and are helping to spread awareness about our people and culture around the world. 

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid has now unveiled our roadmap for “e-Residency 2.0”, which will further improve our offering for entrepreneurs, and include more ways for e-residents to enjoy our culture.

Other governments are taking note, and several are working on their own e-Residency programmes. Most recently, Dubai unveiled its 50-year charter which includes plans to create virtual economic zones where people elsewhere in the world can become e-residents.

Each country will digitise in its own way based on its unique strengths, requirements, and even culture. Estonia has been providing its expertise and experiences to other countries around the world looking to follow the same path, including the UK, and now we are also learning from them about new ways they have discovered to improve e-governance. That’s also why no two offers of e-Residency by different countries will be the same. 

It’s only a matter of time until the UK offers its own version of e-Residency in order to export its business environment and culture – and ultimately make more friends around the world. 

For those that don’t want to wait however, Estonia’s digital doors are already open.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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