You may have seen Estonia all over news sites as the pioneers in e-residency reform, soon to be the first nation to offer e-residency applications. Before you cut up your passport and waiting for some sort of Tron-esque entry into the digital realm, it might be a good idea to figure out what exactly e-residency is and why and how it could benefit you.
What even is e-residency?
Essentially, e-residency would be no way aligned with your citizenship or physical residency in a country – other than the fact that you state where you are from. E-residency would be an online, digital confirmation of your existence. It would be like having a passport for the internet, stating who you are, where you’re from, who you have dealt with. At the moment there is nothing like this being offered by a country or organisation. E-residency with the Republic of Estonia would allow you to sign digital documents and submit forms as if you were there face to face.
How do they know it’s you?
They’re not just going to trust anyone that applies, no matter how many verification selfies you email them. In order to obtain an e-residency from the Estonian government, you must go to Estonia to the Police and Border Guard Office and complete a series of fingerprint scans, background checks and applications. After two weeks they let you now whether you are in, then a one time fee of fifty euros secures your bonafide digital existence.
If a three week vacation in Estonia is too much for you, the government are hoping to coordinate with embassies to have e-residency applications available from anywhere in the world by 2015.
What can you do with it?
Heaps of stuff. Everything that you usually requires your physical presence could essentially be done digitally, for instance launching a company, signing a bank document, encrypting files, study or maybe even taking your own licence photo (don’t quote me on the last one). The bulk of these tasks will be particularly beneficial if you do business in Estonia but don’t live there.
This is an important step for a country that prides themselves on spearheading governmental modernisation. The removal of physical paper trails from society and the adoption of computer technologies has boosted transparency across all government and corporate sectors. As Toomas Hendrik Ilves states “you can’t bribe a computer” meaning “people trust the system”.
By pursuing the implementation of e-residency Estonia will consolidate its current governmental and public e-services with the private sector, meaning all aspects of administrative life can be adhered to in a digital capacity. E-tax, e-health and e-voting are all current digital services allowing people to pay taxes, file prescriptions and vote respectively.
It may be some time before Western nations such as Australia and the United States adopt such practices, but that won’t stop citizens applying for the residency of the future!
Image & Sources: Reddit, e-Estonia