Prior to the US presidential election the most divisive political event of 2016 has undoubtedly been the result of the Brexit vote. After a long and often bitter campaign the Brexit camp got their wish, leaving the “remainers” licking their wounds and wondering what to do next.
Estonia is a small country next to Finland and with a population of just 1.3 million people that has become an unlikely digital innovator.
To understand how this has developed one first has to look at the country’s emergence from Soviet rule that began in 1989 and was finally achieved five years later. Freed from its communist past Estonia quickly espoused economic freedom becoming a full member of the EU in 2004.
Part of its progressive approach, and a strategy to make itself a far more significant country than its size would suggest, e-citizenship allows anyone the right to apply for e-residency. It should be noted, however, that there is no right of entry, citizenship or tax residency included.
However it does allow the holder to run a business in Estonia and, given the uncertainty of trade agreements once the UK is no longer an EU member, this may be an appealing idea for some.
E-residency is just one of the many ways that the country has embraced the online world. For example there are few legal documents of any kind that need to have a physical signature. Instead the Digital Identity Card that every citizen, both national and e-residents, receive, allows them to sign online.
It also makes many other official requirements far simpler than they would be in an offline world – from submitting a tax return to applying for a marriage licence.
But some have expressed doubts about whether this is a totally good idea.
As we see more and more today, there are many risks attached to living in the digital world from lack of privacy to the danger of cybercrime. And the more that a country does online, the greater the dangers may be.
Of course, there are courses of action that can help to protect users. For example connecting to the internet via a robust Virtual Private Network offers far more security due to its sophisticated encryption technology. Sites are also springing up to highlight the benefit of the multiple brands offering VPNs, as they’ve become increasingly more prevalent.
There have also been questions asked about whether a country like the UK could ever become as digitally developed as Estonia is. But with a population of around sixty times the size spread over a far wider area the sheer cost of implementation would be huge – and with the uncertain economic times ahead it’s not an option that’s likely to be considered anytime soon.