Think of a country where you can vote and do your taxes online. Where children learn to
code from the young age of seven. Welcome to Estonia.
Estonia is a small Baltic country in Northern part of Europe. It’s a small country with only 1.3 million people yet it has accomplished quite a lot. Estonia has managed to build a country that is a beautiful mixture of old and new. Estonias capital city Tallinn has one of the best-preserved medieval old towns in Europe. That’s just the start Tallinn is also one of the most modern cities in Europe.
After regaining its independence in 1991, Estonia had to start from scratch. At that point
only half of Estonian population had telephone lines so as imagined the connection to the outside world was also very limited. So estonians had two options – to take from others or make your own, Estonians chose to do things their own way. In a way you can say Estonia itself is kind of a startup. When the new government was elected Estonia saw a new beginning. With average age of 30 years old the government came with new ideas and a lot of potential to change things up for the country. Mart Laar was selected as the prime minister, in power he managed to institute a flat-tax system and many other reforms that simplify starting a business. Today these changes have helped Estonia to attract foreign investments.
Ever, since, e-Estonia has blossomed in 2000s, Estonia has declared internet access as a
human right. ID cards were issued in 2002. Since then every Estonian is assigned to unique string of 11 digits, a digital identifier that acts as a key to operating almost every aspect of that person’s life. Because of that 98% of Estonians have ID cards. It very efficient since digital signature has the equal weight to handwritten. This has made signing papers a lot easier and faster. Thanks to that Estonia has a paperless system called E-Government. These days almost all Estonians file taxes via online within few minutes because since it’s made prefilled. Probably one of the most important changes was that in 2007 Estonia became the first country in the world to allow online voting in a general election. This has made voting a lot more easy for people. For example if you are traveling or don’t have the time to go to the election office you can just vote online using your ID card. Since people’s data is stored online, when another person or government looks at your information you get a mail about it. So you can check who’s looking at your information and send them a mail to ask why were they interested in your personal information. After the 2007 cyber-conflict were cyber attacked as well down fifty-eight Estonian websites including those of government, most newspapers and many banks, Estonia has been putting a lot of effort in cyber-security. Because of that the first data embassy was opened in Betzdorf, Luxembourg. So in a case of a shutdown Estonia will have an backup.
Estonia is also the first country in the world to offer people virtual residency. Estonia
released the first e-residency cards 2014 December. Since then people with e-residency
can be set up companies in Estonia within 5 minutes. E-residency program, is open for
anyone from anywhere in the world. The person does not have to actually live in estonia
the E-residency card just makes it easier to open a business and a bank account. It’s also
useful for transfers and since most of the things in Estonia are done online it makes it more convenient and faster. It should be noted though that E-residency does not give a person Estonian citizenship, tax residence, and entry permit to Estonia or to the European Union. In 1994 Estonia became the first country to institute a flat-tax. So that itself makes managing a business easier.
Interesting fact about Estonia is that it produces more start-ups per head than any other
country in Europe. In a way this is related to the e-government project in Estonia. Because in the 2000s there were big investments made to promote information technology studies and coding. An even bigger boost happened when Estonian engineers developed the code behind Skype in 2003 this gave a great input in motivating young people to study programming. There are about 350 start ups in Estonia so in a way it plays a big role in the country’s way of being. When you look at Twitter you might have seen #EstonianMafia and this is what we call Estonians Info technological powerhouse.