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Montag, 23.10.2017
eGovernment Forschung | eGovernment Research 2001 - 2017

Estonia is the world leader in digital governance and a founding member of Digital 5 (D5), a global network of evolving digital governments. It is no surprise then that Estonia is creating a borderless digital society for global citizens as the first country to offer e-Residency

The Telegraph’s Britain’s Smart Cities team caught up with Kaspar Korjus, e-Residency Managing Director, Republic of Estonia, to find out about the initiative and how it’s creating financial inclusion and empowerment for citizens worldwide.

You can hear Kaspar speak in person at The Telegraph’s Britain’s Smart Cities Conference 2017.

For more information and to book your place, click here.

Q: e-Residency aims to create digitally empowered citizens. How does it do this?

In 2000, Estonia became the first country to declare that internet access is a human right, a notion that was then backed by the UN and other countries in various forms.

As global internet use increases rapidly, the access to digital services remains unequal. Consequently, too many people are being prevented from reaching their entrepreneurial potential, often because of their location.

Estonia is leading the way by ensuring that access to entrepreneurship online is available to everyone through e-Residency.

By providing a transnational digital identity backed by the Estonian government, and full access to public e-services, e-Residency enables anyone to set up an EU-based business and then use our advanced digital infrastructure to manage it from anywhere in the world.

E-residents are joining our new digital nation, a community of digitally empowered citizens who want to focus on their passion and business. Of course, we don’t discriminate based on anyone’s nationality or where they choose to live or travel, which is why we now have more than 23,000 e-residents from 138 countries across the world.

Democratising entrepreneurship wouldn’t only improve the lives of these individuals. It would also benefit their families, their communities and their countries. It would help unlock global growth and turn new ideas into products and services that can make the world a better place.

Q: Explain the notion of a location-independent business, and why this is so attractive.

Being location independent means that you could easily go somewhere else. Entrepreneurs now want the freedom to move location and work with customers, colleagues and partners across borders.

We are also seeing the rise of what we call “digital nomadism”. Some people want to go anywhere in the world; others want to travel and work to schedules without asking for time off.

Some prefer to spend more time with family and friends, while others expect to have a deeper cultural experience wherever they go. Digital nomads can be freelancers, entrepreneurs, remote employees or contractors, although the distinction between them is becoming blurred.

In addition, many more workers around the world may not define themselves as digital nomads, but they still have the ability to move with their work whenever they want.

Not all of our e-residents travel and work at the same time but, with our digital ID, paperwork-free and hassle-free administration, and all the other services we provide, e-Residency is very attractive for location-independent entrepreneurs.

Q: How is e-Residency going to change the future of business?

Several trends are shaping the future of business, and e-Residency is ready to have a huge impact on this evolution.

We believe that countries will have to compete to provide the best digital public services and attract e-residents. We were the first to take this step but we are convinced there will soon be lots of e-Residency programmes.

The fast-moving business world will probably become more decentralised. People have better access to information and knowledge, and the world does not lack innovative ideas.

Revolutionary projects may have come from Silicon Valley, New York or London in the past but they will soon be born in Kiev, Medellin or Goa.

This is because local entrepreneurs and digital nomads now have access to the same online tools and the right digital infrastructure to grow their business globally and focus on their passion rather than on administrative struggles.

The use of digital IDs and digital signatures will help make the business world more transparent and secure. Estonia is recognised as a pioneer in e-government and has used blockchain-like technologies for years to secure health records and undergird its shared government database system, X-Road.

The technology behind this digital infrastructure is extremely impressive. The Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and e-ID system is based on advanced encryption technology and includes two-factor authentication. Data is decentralised but never duplicated and is always shared securely via the X-Road.

One of the innovations integrated into these services was a distributed ledger that could never be erased or rewritten. With e-Residency, we offer access to this infrastructure to our e-residents, and the secure digital identities offered by e-Residency enable easier KYC and onboarding.

This makes the e-Residency community an attractive market for new online services, such as those based on blockchain technology.

These are a few examples that show how e-Residency can change the future of business.

Q: How does e-Residency help with financial inclusion?

Financial exclusion is one of the biggest challenges facing the world today, particularly for entrepreneurs. Huge numbers of people are still unable to access the financial services they need, such as banking and payment providers, because these services are either unaffordable or, depending on their location, unavailable.

As an entrepreneur, not being able to access business banking, international-payment providers or other modern business tools can prevent your company from getting started and then growing.

So Estonia established its e-Residency programme to help unleash the world’s entrepreneurial potential. It means anyone anywhere can access Estonia’s advanced digital infrastructure and then benefit from the same online opportunities that are already available to Estonians.

An EU company established through e-Residency doesn’t only make it easier to conduct operations in Europe. It also benefits from the EU’s legal frameworks and higher levels of trust when conducting business globally.

People in developing countries, as well as women and other marginalised groups, face the greatest challenge when accessing e-commerce.

In many circumstances, the financial and administrative barriers to establishing and managing a business may be too high, their business may not be trusted online, or they may have difficulty accessing all the tools they need (such as international-payment providers). But even in countries like Ukraine or Turkey, access to services such as Paypal is restricted.

By becoming an e-resident and creating an EU company through e-Residency, people can benefit from Estonia’s trusted business environment.

Recently, the Finnish fintech company Holvi has chosen to join us and expand its services by launching an e-Residency business account. They will provide e-residents with a fully digital business account combined with a Holvi Business Mastercard and useful tools to grow their business. Now a complete EU business with banking can be established online anywhere.

e-Residency has recently partnered with the United Nations Conference on Trade & Development (UNCTAD) to launch a groundbreaking new initiative called e-Trade For All.

The goal of e-Trade For All is to help unlock global growth by supporting developing countries as they empower their citizens to access e-commerce through entrepreneurship. The programme is supported by Jack Ma, founder and chairperson of the Alibaba Group.

Such is the potential of this initiative to transform the world that the G20 has now recommended all its members actively support e-Trade For All’s key policy areas.

One of the first examples of e-Residency’s work as a partner in e-Trade For All is now underway in Delhi, India, where women are being helped to start their online businesses through e-Residency of Estonia.

Q: The programme aims to reach 10 million virtual residents by 2025. What steps are in place to achieve this?

Ten million e-residents by 2025 is our long-term vision for the future of the programme. As President Kaljulaid said: “Thanks to Estonia’s capabilities, we can make 10 million payments, perform 10 million requests and sign 10 million contracts in 10 minutes.”

However, it is very important to note that people don’t only become e-residents. They also use our services. This is why we would like to see 20,000 companies created by our community by 2020.

e-Residency was launched in beta mode, which in start-up jargon means we know not everything is perfect but we’re continually improving it based on feedback from real customers already gaining real value.

It seems incredible now but e-residents used to have to travel to Estonia four times to complete the process of becoming an e-resident, registering their business and then opening a business bank account.

Fortunately, people no longer need to visit Estonia to become an e-resident or register a business there. There’s been a lot of hard work across Estonian government departments to make this possible, from the country’s police and border guards to the Estonian embassies around the world.

We will continue to discuss options with our e-residents, listening to their feedback and working with the Estonian authorities, international organisations and/or private companies to improve the services we provide.

This is what happened with Holvi and UNCTAD, as well as with many other partnerships that will soon be announced. We believe in growing our community until it becomes a new digital nation.

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Quelle/Source: The Telegraph, 03.10.2017

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