Today I am joined by Ott Vatter, the Managing Director at e-Residency, an initiative started by the Republic of Estonia to encourage more people to start businesses in Europe and to make it easier for remote workers and entrepreneurs to work while on the move. E-Residency was the first digital initiative of its kind, and there are now over 55,000 e-residents worldwide, including Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Pope Francis, and Angela Merkel. It has been so popular that e-residency applications have been growing faster than the number of births in the entire Estonian nation.
Today we are talking about how e-Residency came to be–what made the government of Estonia start this initiative, the benefits that have come from it, what impacts the country has seen from the program, and the possibility of other countries creating their own programs. You will also hear some mistakes they made along the way and how they overcame them.
Ott Vatter is the Managing Director at e-Residency, an initiative started by the Republic of Estonia in 2014 to encourage more people to start businesses in Europe. It makes it easier for remote workers and entrepreneurs to work while on the move.
E-Residency was the first digital initiative of its kind, and there are now over 55,000 e-residents worldwide, including Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Pope Francis, and Angela Merkel. It has been so popular that e-residency applications have been growing faster than the number of births in the entire Estonian nation.
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So why was it first formed? Ott says, “If we look at the population first of Estonia, we’re only 1.3 million people. With the domestic market, we can’t really develop or scale. We’re also demographically losing people. People are moving away. Some people are moving back. But in general, the outlook in 50 years, 100 years is not that positive. We have to be clever in these ways that we can actually innovate. We’re not a rich country in terms of national resources, or we don’t have huge resources of oil. But what we do have is the basis of a digital country. We could really capitalize on that. The infrastructure of e-Residency was already there for our own citizens. We didn’t have to invent anything new, but we could replicate the same model for foreigners. We use the same identity card, taking away the photo and making it available for others as well.”
Any individual is able to apply for e-Residency, even if they are not currently looking to start a company or work remotely. Some people just do it to say they are an “e-Estonian”. One of the main benefits of joining e-Residency is the ability to use your digital certificate to sign documents quickly and it allows remote entrepreneurs to let other people handle the basic administrative tasks which leaves the entrepreneur freed up to focus on more important parts of running a business.
When thinking about the future of work Ott believes that being a digital citizen will have huge benefits. He says, “People are traveling around even more and more. I think remote work is growing immensely. Digital identity is something that makes your life easier. As a German citizen, you wouldn’t have to fly back to your own country, for example, from Thailand and wait in line in the tax office to fill out a form. Or in the U.S., for example, the tax forms, I mean, they’re crazy. You physically have to be present to actually present all of these documents. I think the future of work is about being location independent. Being able to submit or do your business from anywhere in the world. I think digital identity will play a very big part of this revolution.”
What You Will Learn In This Episode:
What e-Residency is and why it was started
Why the concept of a digital society is so important
The impacts of e-Residency on the country of Estonia
The role of privacy and security in a digital society
Some of the mistakes that were made in forming this program and how they were overcome
What Estonia is doing as a country to encourage people to start businesses there