One of the more interesting presentations at the recent Nordic Digital Day was by Taavi Kotka, of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Estonia. Taavi has had a varied career in software development, as well as government. He has founded several startups and holds a Masters in Engineering from Tallinn University. Therefore his profile is not typical of most civil servants.
Taavi’s presentation at the conference focused on the idea of Country as a Service. He used Estonia as an exemplar of what’s possible. In effect Estonia is setting up its stall to provide core government services, and ancillary services, to organisations and individuals outside of Estonia.
A good example is starting up and registering a business. In many countries in the world it’s not exactly easy to create a business. Some administrations make it positively difficult. However, Estonia has established the concept of e-residency – where business owners can remain resident in the USA, UK or Philippines (or wherever) but establish a business in Estonia – an EU country – very easily. In a post-Brexit world, this could be very handy for many companies.
So, why Estonia? Well the little country has developed state-of-the-art processes that make e-residency very easy. Around this they have wrapped many other government services that make conducting business very easy. And the private sector is keen to get involved too.
If states fail to redesign and simplify the machinery of bureaucracy and make it location-independent, there will be an opportunity for countries that can offer such services across borders.
Estonia has learned that it’s incredibly important in a small state to serve primarily small and micro businesses. In order to sustain a nation on this, we must automate and digitize processes to scale. Estonia’s model, for instance, is location-independent, making it simple to scale successfully. We hope to acquire at least 10 million digital residents (e-Residents) in a way that is mutually beneficial by the nation-states where these people are tax residents.
Taavi Kotka, Chief Information Officer of Estonia