e-Estonia: A Country that Can Run on a Phone

Team JT & TK with Team Adrineh & Tai at a beautiful viewpoint in Old Town Tallinn. Pro tip: wear comfortable shoes for those painful cobblestones!

Estonia is the world’s first e-nation and has been hailed as one of the most digitally advanced societies in the world since its independence from the Soviets in 1991. They realized the power of data early on and made efforts in investing in informational technology which has allowed for them to digitize public services so efficiently today. In the recent years, Estonia has been popping up more and more frequently in innovation circles particularly in the tech industry and is widely talked about amongst digital nomads. 

While in Estonia, our class got to hear from and visit the following:

TalTech Mektory building
  • TalTech Mektory — An innovation and business center for Tallinn Technological University that works with both students and companies to help tech entrepreneurs startup their business while it is in the “pre-incubator” phase.
Biz Scan 2019 class photo ready at Technopol! #selfie
  • Science Park Technopol — Is a innovation hub accelerator that assists startups and advanced technology based companies in boosting money and helping them push to develop further. They work with nearly 200 companies, from startups to well known companies such as Skype, Toggl, Defendec, and FlyDog.
Once New Yorker, Now Estonian, Carl Richard Pucci, Head of International Operations for Datel AS giving us a lesson on Estonia’s history
  • Datel AS— One of the first IT firms in Estonia. It has significantly contributed to the development of the Estonian E-Governance systems.

What each of these places seemed to emphasize as their competitive advantage is Estonia’s completely digitized system and E-Residency program that this small Baltic State offers. Since launching in 2002, Estonia has transformed itself into a digital community, with now over 90% of government services available online. In Estonia, everything is digitized from taxes, to i-voting, to even medical records with can be easily accessed through the web. Each individual is given a digital ID that can be used in services from healthcare to banking. Since everything is digitized, Estonia relies on a huge data base and block chain technology to ensure the safety of the data collective.

This brings us to their E-residency program. To boost their economy, in 2014, Estonia opened up its digital borders to the world and introduced their e-residency program. E-residency provides entrepreneurs from all over the world with the opportunity to become an e-resident of Estonia and remotely manage a company in Estonia, without having to physically live in the country. Estonia has set this program up in such a way that would attract those in the tech based industry such as app developers and cloud providers.

The 4 main things an e-Residency allows one to do:

  • Open an Estonian Business
  • Open an Estonian Bank Account
  • Administer the Business Online
  • Digitally Sign Documents and Contracts

They can do this all by authenticating themselves online via digital ID card.

One advantage that we learned about from Carl at Datel is that the corporate income tax for an Estonian company is zero on retained and reinvested profits. Another huge advantage of having e-residency is that it allows one to have access to EU market, specifically the Schengen nations (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland). Through our research, we found that people online have reported that the the application process is simple and takes less than 30 minutes while other countries make the process a little more difficult for outsiders. 

To start the process you just fill out an online application form, upload your photo, state your purpose, and pay roughly about $100 USD for the e-residency state fee. Once the application has been submitted it takes about 10 business days and then you’re all set. You will receive a digital ID card and a smart card reader. The whole process in total takes about 2-4 weeks.

As of today, Estonia currently has 54,555 e-residents. See their impressive live totals of Estonia’s e-residency program here. To read more about e-Residency, check out the Estonia government website.

So guys, is Estonia is the country of the future? Do you see other nations following suit and becoming more digitized? Can this model be replicated in bigger countries? Comment down below and let us know what you think!

Lastly, on a side note, we found absolutely no issues finding WiFi in Tallin. Carl Richard Pucci, Head of International Operations for Datel AS had joked during his presentation that WiFi is a human right in Estonia. I guess he wasn’t kidding! Estonia is one of the most connected countries in the world after all! 

CAUGHT: Social Media Professor, Niklas Myhr having some #selfie fun on the Mektory tour