Estonia – the First Truly Digital Country
Most people are aware that Estonia lead the way when it comes to digitalising the services that they offer to their citizens. In fact it is not only for citizens, as they have also rolled out a new e-residency service that is available to those that are not resident in Estonia but want to take advantage of the benefits of being an e-resident.
The story begins with the fall of communism in the early 1990’s and at that point the leaders of Estonia made a strategic decision that they needed to create a unique selling point for the country. With a population of only 1 million they felt that they could be vulnerable in future unless they created their USP and really put themselves on the global map. In the 25 years since they have succeeded in doing this and are now leading the way from a digital perspective – when looking at developing digital services I am sure there are very few countries in the world that do not look at what Estonia has done and try to use it as an inspiration of what can be achieved.
One of the key aspects of the system is that there can be no paperwork. None at all you ask? Yes. None at all. Everything from registering for state provided services, to receiving benefits, to voting are now completed by way of a digital ID. To give you some comparison, in the June 2018 election in the UK there was not even an opportunity to vote online – the Estonians have been doing it for years.
This vision of a digital future has not only meant that citizens have a more efficient system, but it means that the Government saves a lot of money as they need less resources. They do not need those expensive buildings in the middle of cities to run all of their governmental services from – these can be handled in cheaper out of town offices and the expensive offices can be rented out. Also as everything is processed digitally you need a lot less employees, all in all the cost savings to the local, regional and national government are huge.
Another key benefit is innovation, the citizens all grow up in a digital world and therefore they think digitally from when they are very young. This puts them at a big advantage over the citizens of other countries as their mindset and thought process is always thinking, “how can this be done more efficiently and what new technology could make this simpler?”. For this reason Estonia has become one of the hotbeds in Europe for startups and innovation new technologies.
The e-residency scheme has given something very unique to the world, allowing all over 18 non-Estonian residents to become an e-resident and obtain a lot of the benefits of being an actual resident. One of the key aspects here is that you can be from anywhere in the world, but become an e-resident and then you have an access into the European Union. So, by becoming an e-resident you can setup a company in Estonia that is then able to trade freely with the whole of the European Union. Why did no-one think of this before? We are asking ourselves the same thing!
Hats of to Estonia in leading the way to becoming a truly digital country, we can’t wait to see what they come up with next and we wonder how long it will take the so-called developed world to catch up.