For the first time, a national identity card includes so much more than just identification. In Estonia, an e-residency card is now a mandatory provision which includes all of the state’s services. This is also available for all outsiders, revolutionizing the dynamics of business and residency.
Estonian e-residency providing access to all the governmental e-services combined onto one card. The ID card services for Estonian citizens includes: travel identification, national health insurance card, bank account identification, digital signatures for documents, i-Voting, medical records, e-Prescriptions, and tax submissions.
As the first country to work with blockchain technology on a national level in practice, bureaucracy is simplified, and processes which used to involve lengthy paperwork are made more efficient. Personal data becomes more secure, as well as transparent. Imagine logging into your medical records and being able to see which doctors or government officials have also viewed them on the Healthcare Registry.
This new way of distributing data is based on X-Road - a decentralized yet highly connected network which makes up the state's administration. The different state agencies, registries and authorities - such as the police, healthcare or unemployment insurance funds - securely exchange authorized data. The network ensures the necessary accessibility, integrity, confidentiality, and verifiability of the data.
Even moreso, the token marketplace Mothership is launching a digital asset exchange with a wallet connected to the e-residents' digital identity. This creates a formal gateway for cryptocurrencies to enter the EU business world, as you will be able to switch from ETH to Euro in moments. Estonia will continue to be a hub for blockchain companies.
Siret Schutting from the E-Estonia Project explains:
"When you introduce an ID card, you get a lot of people asking, 'Why do I need that?' But then you add all of these services, and you can purchase a car from your living room, or vote from your living room or, when it's like minus 40 outside and you have a newborn baby, you probably don't want to go to the family office to name her: you do that online. Very small, pragmatic things."
E-Residency, which is also available for non-Estonians, aims to create a “borderless digital society for global citizens” based on prospects of “inclusion, legitimacy and transparency”. The transnational identity is available for anyone, and particularly facilitates businesses. Those who apply get access to the European Union’s business sphere, as well as the tools provided by the public e-services.
This offer attracts many people from around the world to start businesses in Estonia. It makes use of local banks and services, boosting the Estonian economy. Foreigners are given the service to start or run a company in Estonia from abroad, online, even if the trading goes on elsewhere. With no extra effort, it is ensured that the tax office back in the entrepreneur’s own country legally receives what it should. This way, a Russian entrepreneur can start a company to trade in Germany, through the Estonian infrastructure.
By now, there are over 20,000 e-residents from 138 different countries. This offer has been particularly appealing to British citizens, who seek a way to carry on with their business in the EU without leaving the UK, post-Brexit. According to Wired, applications for e-residency have doubled since the referendum.
Since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Estonia has set itself apart from other nations by focusing and developing its technological innovation. By the year 2000, all cabinet meetings were paperless. In 2002, all the most populated areas were covered by a free Wi-Fi network. Skype is an Estonian-based project from 2003. The very first digital e-voting in the world took place for general parliamentary elections in 2007. In 2012, fibre-optic cabling were produced for the masses, enabling long distance telecommunication, and providing a high-speed data connection between people. By then, tax returns were possible to make online in a faster and more efficient way. And in 2014, the smart card providing e-residency was launched. Banking, payments, taxation, insurances, voting, signing documents and the formation of companies have all been digitalized and combined onto one card.
The previous president Ilves said in 2016:
“Estonia is now a blockchain nation. Our digital society is underpinned by blockchain technology and our secure digital identities provide a significant advantage to blockchain companies that need to verify online identities. Through e-Residency, Estonia is ready to support blockchain pioneers from anywhere in the world so they can build the future through our digital infrastructure, even without stepping foot in Estonia.”
With reliable and easy-to-use infrastructure, online services, and an open invitation to businesses and world citizens, Estonia allures the rest of the world to use its national brand.
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Journalist, editor, and graduate of anthropology and international relations. Interested in culture, economics, philosophy, politics, travel, music and art