Estonia is a tiny country in Northern Europe. Due to its quiet and pacific nature, the Baltic region doesn’t often get too much attention. However, Estonia is by far the most advanced digital society on the planet. The numbers speak for themselves: Taxes are completed online in under 5 minutes, 99 percent of Estonia’s public services are available online 24 hours a day and nearly one-third of citizens vote via the internet.
“We have a generation who has grown up knowing that you communicate digitally with your school because we have an e-school system, with your doctor because of e-health,” Estonia’s president Kersti Kaljulaid told CNBC in an interview in Tallinn in August, 2019. “You could say the Estonian government offers what normally only the private sector can offer to people.”
E-Residency Of Estonia
Estonia’s E-Residency can be deemed as the main key to Estonia’s digital society. This first-of-its-kind initiative allows individuals to start businesses in Estonia regardless of where they physically are. Beyond Estonia, this very initiative serves as a launching pad for companies looking to step into the European Union (EU) market.
This undoubtedly grants an unmatched advantage for “the outsiders”. Estonia E-Residency has received significant interest worldwide, with more than 50,000 applications have been filed and approved since its launch in 2014. Taavi Kotka, Estonia’s first-ever chief information officer summed it up nicely, “People who have global businesses, have a global lifestyle, they want to be served, and we want to be the best ones in that area”.
Estonia’s Digital Nomad Visa — The First Of Its Kind
Estonia is now building on its success with e-Residency to launch a visa for digital nomads; employees who work remotely around the world. The visa is an example of a public-private partnership at work between the Estonian government and Jobbatical, a cross-border hiring firm.
“What we are doing with the digital nomad visa, it really reflects what our whole immigration policy is about,” said Killu Vantsi, a legal migration adviser at the Estonian Ministry of the internal affairs. “We want to attract the talented people, entrepreneurs that are beneficial to our society to our economy.”
Karoli Hindriks, CEO of Jobbatical, said other countries should follow Estonia’s lead as they face aging populations and a lack of skilled workers. “The countries that are closing down and not thinking about it, I’m very curious to see where they will be in 10, 15 years,” she said.
Estonia — The Unicorn King
Efforts like e-Residency and the digital nomad visa, along with business-friendly tax rates, have helped encourage a start-up culture in the tiny Baltic nation. Skype, the video chatting service that was bought by Microsoft, was launched in Estonia in 2003.
Today, the government boasts it is home to more tech unicorns, private companies valued at more than $1 billion, per capita than any other small country in the world. Its recent unicorns include payments firm TransferWise and Uber competitor Taxify.
Other companies focusing on everything from blockchain to organic food are now vying to be the next Estonian success.
“The environment they set up right now is really friendly,” said Gregory Lu, co-founder of Natufia Labs, a start-up that created a machine to grow organic produce indoors. “I hope they keep it this way.”
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