Ten million Estonians by 2025
The deputy director of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, Taavi Kotka, anticipates that there will be 10 million digital Estonians by 2025. The first e-citizenships will be granted by the end of the year.
Digital Citizen ID can be used for digital authentication. Thus, for example, one can establish a company in Estonia completely remotely. Digital citizenship also allows people to open bank accounts and do online banking, and access electronic prescriptions and insurances. All of these can be controlled remotely. Only one mandatory visit to Estonia is required – for delivering the required biometric identifiers.
Background checks will be performed on e-Estonia applicants. The process is, according to Estonian authorities, roughly similar to the way credit card companies screen their customers before granting them credit cards.
Striving for national competitive advantage
Digital citizenship is an innovative idea and its actual implementation highly bold move from Estonia. Time will tell what the outcome of the experiment will be.
Ways to achieve national competitive advantages are as timely topic in Estonia as they are in Finland or in any other European country. By offering people the possibility to become e-Estonians the Estonian government aims to increase the competitiveness of the nation’s economy while boosting science, education and healthcare sectors.
Remote citizenship is thought to encourage investments to Estonia and make participating in Estonian enterprises as easy as possible. For example, one can conveniently sign all official documents online, as well as manage Estonian bank accounts and pay taxes.
The project will also enable access to EU’s internal markets for entrepreneurs and investors outside the union countries. In worst case scenarios this option has been said to make Estonia a virtual platform for organized crime and shady business ventures. However, Taavi Kotka believes that the positive effects of e-Estonia will outdo the potential drawbacks.
Differences between Finland and Estonia
The e-Estonia project, started seven years ago, reflects Estonia’s relationship to new technology. When looking at it from Finland, Estonia’s attitude to new technology seems to be practical, agile and enterprise-friendly.
The national backbone of the digital infrastructure is the X-Road system, which offers more than 3,000 digital services to Estonians. Each government institution or company can select the digital services they need from the shared infrastructure.
To be fair, Estonia has had an opportunity to design and build their public information systems virtually from scratch. So, while our southern neighbor has moved straight from dusty piles of paper to the digital model, in Finland the development of new public information services has been slowed down by a huge number of expensive and often outdated public IT systems. Each new digital solution must be compatible with the plethora of integrated old systems, which makes development and testing slow and burdensome.
These differences enable Estonia to be agile, cost-effective, and quick to explore new digital possibilities. Whereas in Finland the general feeling is that our medium and large public sector IT projects are too often sluggish and involve burning huge sums of money.