Estonia is adding digital residents faster than real ones

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The country of Estonia is facing a serious issue — it’s adding “e-residents” faster than real ones

Many countries in Europe, including Estonia, are facing falling fertility rates, leading to economic pressure. Couples are choosing to have less children because of financial and personal costs and due to uncertainty over the availability of good, steady jobs.

Populations in many countries are becoming older, meaning more elderly people need to be cared for by the overworked and underfunded governments that they rely on. The population of the United Kingdom in 2016 was 65.6 million and is predicted to hit 74 million by 2039, according to the Office for National Statistics. Due to investment in healthcare and more active lifestyles the population is getting older, however; in 2016, 18 percent of the population was age 65 or older and this is expected to reach 24.7 percent by 2046.

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With immigration levels not hitting high enough levels to offset these economic costs, Estonia introduced an e-resident program in 2014 that allows holders the right to run a virtual business in the country — digital nomads can have access to bank accounts, payment services and a government-issued digital ID, while actually being present in the country is optional, all for only a €100 registration fee. The program is being used by people from all areas of the globe — countries with the most applications are Finland, Russia, Ukraine and Germany — and even Pope Francis and Microsoft founder Bill Gates have signed up for the program.

It should be noted that, however, this isn’t the same thing as being granted citizenship and that e-residents still are required to pay taxes in the country they are physically based in.

The program makes sense in a country where just about everything has been digitized. Estonia’s government is paperless, so even its most fundamental records and systems are housed in computer servers, according to Siim Sikkut, Estonia’s chief information officer, in a podcast published by the International Monetary Fund. (The country maintains backups in Luxembourg’s government data centre). Sikkut explains that making everything paperless allows for a higher rate of efficiency for the government and with things like voting all online now, it allows citizens to change their vote if they make a mistake or change their mind.

Unfortunately the government’s systems aren’t immune to hacking and in 2017, the country’s computer systems were found to be vulnerable to a theoretical hack that could impact thousands of citizens, since all services are online.

In the uncertainty that lingers since the Brexit vote took place, there was a large number of people applying from the UK, allowing them to continue to do business in the EU without a hiccup. With negotiations still going on, many people are registering for the program as an insurance policy in case things between the two bodies go sour. If Britain finds itself excluded from the EU single market, businesses still will need to participate in contracts and tenders in the EU and as a business registered in Estonia, they will be treated no different than a business in France, Brussels or the Netherlands.

Quartz at Work got to speak with one of the first e-residents of Estonia to learn what their participation in the program means for them, and Business Today explains how in India, online marketplaces are using the program to access PayPal, which is currently not available in the country.

Noteworthy Read

💻 BuzzFeed News published a piece called “Facebook Isn’t Sorry — It Just Wants Your Data,” and that statement couldn’t be more true. The company was hit with a major data breach in March when more than 87 million people were impacted in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and Mark Zuckerberg said at the time that “clearly we should have done more, and we will going forward". But then it happened again in September when another 50 million were impacted by a different breach. As The Hill puts it, “the shareholders and executives will walk away from this with paper cuts” which doesn’t seem quite fair.

Obsession Hiatus

Our current obsession is the #FutureofMobility and how the ways we get around now — driving, taking the subway, electric scooters and more — are changing. With Uber debuting its scooter-share service on the sunshine coast, Waymo using Phoenix, AZ as a testbed for autonomous vehicles and SpaceX booking its first passenger ride to the moon, the mobility industry is changing everyday.

In Case You Missed It

📽 Apple has already debuted Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke and with its recent announcements and deals — including with Oprah, Sesame Workshop, a supposed reboot of Amazing Stories and a morning show starring Reece Witherspoon and Jennifer Anniston, just to name a few — it will reportedly begin releasing the new content next March for free to people who own its devices. The content will be offered alongside optional add-ons to HBO Now and Starz in a revamped TV app.

🚈 Throughout the world credit scores are usually just used to determine if someone is eligible for a loan — but in China, the government has developed a “social credit” system, that is based partly on people’s behaviors in order to determine their full trustworthiness — including how they behave on the train.

🎬 MoviePass is stabbing users who cancelled their memberships in the back by re-signing them up for its paid membership tier — without telling them. This is just the latest in a long string of anti-consumer actions that the company has taken in recent months, leading some users to #BoycottMoviePass.

💰 Though it’s known for its fast and free two-day shipping options, Amazon isn’t necessarily known for treating its workers well. The company just announced that it will be increasing the wages of most employees — which should be a good thing — but in the process, eliminated employee bonuses and stock awards which arguably makes them worse off than before.


Our best wishes for a productive and calm day. Feel free to direct any Brexit survival guides, scandalous Facebook data leaks and Amazon employee horor stories to our email. This email was written by Ryan Hanna on 29 October, 2018.

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