Estonia is considered by many to be the world’s most advanced digital society. Since 2001, it has benefited from an eID program that includes a government-issued digital identity capable of facilitating e-voting, virtually all citizen-to-government transactions as well as a growing list of individual-to-business transactions.
The small European Union nation also is the first and only country to offer an eResidency program. This allows people from around the world to start a company and open a bank account in Estonia without being a traditional resident. Digital nomads from around the world are flocking to the eResidency program for the flexibility it provides to geographically unbound entrepreneurs.
Thanks to these efforts, along with an overall embracing of digital-first services, Estonia is becoming the land without queues or lines.
In a speech to the St Gallen Symposium, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid provides a great perspective on her country’s experience going digital. She also forecasts the challenges nations of the world will face as the nature of work and the workforces changes so dramatically that governments lose their ability to generate traditional tax income.
Below are select excerpts from the speech, with the full text available here.
Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid:
“The disruptive innovation from Estonians is thus not technology itself, the innovation lies elsewhere – in the process of bringing businesses and government together to help all people, young and old, to benefit from digital services options available. Already for 17 years, Estonians have a digital ID and can use this to sign and time stamp documents, including private contracts, apply for different public services, pay fines and taxes, query the registries, change their services packages and simply send encrypted e-mails …
Digital ID is an integral part of all ID cards, since 2001. Digital identity is created at birth, by the way, automatically and in the background when a doctor enters the details of a birth into medical records, without the doctor hitting one additional button to undertake this task. They are a civil registry manager, but they do not even notice! The parents can then later on, using their own IDs, add a name to the baby with an already created e-identity. They can then start applications for social services, kindergarten places etc., if they wish, from their maternity hospital room. A new digital citizen is born …
We save 2% of our GDP by never visiting any public office and we have very few bank offices left in the country. Postal ones have been replaced by automatic delivery lockers, too. A delivery announcement is routinely an sms. You may notice – I am here not talking anymore of public service. The laziness of people to go and queue allows businesses to save huge costs by offering digital, automated solutions without facing the risk of losing their client base.”
Following her explanation of the Estonian experience, she addresses the changing nature of work and taxation. It is a unique perspective that it can be argued only Estonia is fully grasping due to their pioneering eResidency program.
Read her full speech to learn of her concerns about the future of taxes in a world where work is sporadic, geographically unbound and hard to measure.