An unexpected source of inspiration
Where do you go looking for inspiration? There’s a lot of great ways to seek it and if you find something that works, great! The field of technology is so full of inspiring innovators and leaders, (from teenage programming wizards to society altering multinational corporations), that you can take a look at any technology news feed and find both incredible success stories and world changing ideas every week. One consistent, if perhaps surprising source of inspiration we’ve found, is not a charismatic leader or groundbreaking company, but the small, ex-soviet, baltic state of Estonia!
The ace up Estonia’s sleeve
Yes, you read that right! Estonia might seem like an unlikely inspirational source, a country of just 1.3 million inhabitants, tucked away in north east Europe, seemingly with little to distinguish it from it’s neighbours. Yet that’s one of the reasons why, since regaining independence in 1991, Estonia’s been remodeling itself as a technical hub, attempting (and succeeding) to stand out from the crowd via the online services it offers and the disproportionately large number of startups it fosters to maturity.
A byword for innovation
On the other hand, maybe you’re not that surprised to hear about Estonia’s technological prowess. Ever since Skypes explosive entry onto the scene back in 2003, Estonia (where Skype was developed and where one of their offices is still based) began using Skype as a byword for Estonian innovation. Startups such as GrabCAD and Transferwise continued that tradition and together (with many others) have built up a distinctive, successful and internationally renowned Estonian startup subculture. How was that possible?
Digital state services
The Estonian state needs to get a lot of the credit: encouraging the teaching of programming skills from a very young age, making wifi coverage ubiquitous across the country, and the development of an impressive array of online government services. Those services enable residents to do everything, from filing their tax returns, to voting in national and local elections, from opening and managing a bank account, to registering a business. This deeply ingrained technological infrastructure has created a society where technological solutions are the trusted, first port of call for most types of problem. In turn, this makes Estonia an ideal point of entry for technological startups.
How can I benefit?
Well, this is all very nice of course, an inspiring example for us to learn from. A technology focussed government whose success we can hope our own leaders are willing to take something away from. But does it offer any practical benefit? Well, unless you move to Estonia, you can’t use their wifi, and they’re not going to take on responsibility for the education of your children, but Estonia has big plans for that impressive portfolio of online government services, and thinks that you might well be able to find a use for them, particularly in connection with your startup or other business. The conditions that make Estonia such a startup hotbed are being made available to all of us.
How can you access them? Since December last year it’s been possible to become an e-resident of Estonia. What does that mean? Well, it’s not connected with physical residency, instead it’s a type of digital identity, issued by the Estonian state, which allows holders to access state (and some private sector) services usually associated with an Estonian ID card.
What’s on offer?
Of course, some services wouldn’t really benefit (eg. registering your child’s birth) or for other reasons are simply not available (eg. voting in national elections) to e-residents, but the remaining services offer a lot of potential. For example, the just click, paper free bureaucracy connected with registering a business, makes the process simple and quick, a matter of minutes. Not only a handy way to register a European business for those looking to expand there from elsewhere in the world, Estonia is hopeful that as they develop their connections with the tax offices of other countries even companies which intend to trade only in their country of residence might choose to use Estonian banking and bureaucracy. Enjoying it’s fast and easy to use approach, especially when compared with the clunky, expensive or time consuming services found in so many other countries.
Making it work for you
In the world of entrepreneurs, every small advantage could make the difference between success and failure. Which means that now is the time to assess whether e-residency can be an advantage for you! Even the seemingly simple ability to sign documents using a state issued digital ID could be a game changer. If the services offered at the moment don’t quite fit your needs, there are more services and advantages in the pipeline, so it’ll be worth looking into again over the coming months.
I’m hoping that simply reading about the possibilities may have given you an idea of how they could be useful to you. Maybe you’ve even thought of a new startup which is only possible because of this opportunity. At Ekreative we’re always checking out new, better ways to achieve the best possible results. The example of Estonia reminds us to keep on innovating and trying out new ways to change the world using technology. Could you be Estonia’s next e-resident? How can their services improve your business? What other inspiring innovators have you discovered recently? Let us know in the comments below.