E-Residency: How Estonia is Advancing Globalization

Estonia is a tiny nation in the European Baltic region. By airplane, it is about two hours north of Germany. With a population of 1.3 million people, it is the smallest member of the European Union (EU). However, despite its size, it is one of the fastest growing economies in the EU. And their progressive growth may be further fueled by a 2014 decision to offer e-Residency to you and me!

“The Republic of Estonia is the first country to offer e-Residency — a transnational digital identity available to anyone in the world interested in administering a location-independent business online.”

Furthermore, their promotional materials tell us that e-residents can:

    • Establish and administer a company online
    • Conduct all the banking online, e.g. make electronic bank transfers
    • Have access to international payment service providers
    • Digitally sign documents (e.g. annual reports, contracts) within the company as well as with external partners
    • Declare taxes online

At the heart of this landmark decision to offer e-residency is Estonia’s ability to effectively leverage technology. As a result of their free Wi-Fi, immense fiber-optic infrastructure and secure data exchange system, Estonians can electronically sign almost every document. In fact, it is purported that they are so integrated that citizens can file their taxes in less than five minutes. This competitive advantage provides Estonians with secure, seamless transactions and the ability to move information quickly. It also opens the door for people around the world to make use of this same system. For example, I can establish a business in Estonia as an e-citizen because I do not need to physically be present. Estonia has realized that digital information is borderless and built an immigration system that embraces it. Furthermore, they are hoping this strategy will stimulate the economy and broaden their tax base.

A few weeks ago I blogged about two counter-trends – globalization and tribalism (See Going Tribal: When Globalization Fails). In summary, society either seems to be polarizing to one of two extremes; we embrace the complex and messy aspects of globalization, or, we look inward and protect ourselves from outside forces. Estonia has clearly placed their betting chips on globalization. Their press release materials conclude by stating, “With e-Residency, you can become part of the digital society revolution taking place in our dynamic Northern European country. You can become an e-Estonian!

Perhaps you and I will have the opportunity to become an Estonian e-Citizen next!

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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Source: Estonian e-Residency

Photo Credit: Gadling

A Disney Dilemma – Fingerprinting at the Happiest Place On Earth

My teenage son recently joined me on a business trip to Florida. Our location afforded us the opportunity to spend a day at Epcot Center, a Disney theme park in Orlando. After purchasing our tickets and self-scanning them to enter the park (read The Move to Self-Service for more details on this trend), a smiling staff member instructed me to place my thumb on a sensor so it could be scanned. After two seconds, the light turned green and I entered the park.

It was at this point that I turned around in amazement and stared at line-ups of hundreds of people who Disney Scannerwere being scanned as they entered the park. It was a beautiful process – very efficient and simple. In fact, Mickey Mouse’s ears even turn green when your scan is complete! However, the great customer service didn’t quell the uncomfortable thought that was bouncing around my mind;

Do I want the Disney Corporation to own my bio-metric data?

You need to understand that I live under the assumption that privacy is dead (see The Death of Privacy). This means that I assume my Disney data will be hacked and/or shared at some point in my life. I am equally confident that organizations like Disney are doing their best to safeguard it from those who wish to steal it. However, I’m a realist. I’ve had too many stolen credit cards and received too many apologies about data breaches from Target & Home Depot to believe that my data is truly private.

In fact, my jaded attitude about Disney’s data security may be warranted. Susanne Posel writes that the Disney Corporation provides the US Department of Defense all of its customer data (as a result of the Freedom of Information Act). While I cannot confirm this supposition, it reminds us about the insecurity behind our security.

It must be noted that the death of privacy has both positive and negative aspects. Should a terrorist target a theme park, biometric data may help mitigate the problem. Or it may help track down a lost child or help Disney reduce counterfeit park tickets. However, it can also have a significant down-side.

So if we can’t trust organizations to protect us, this places the onus on us as consumers. How are we exercising our right to choose who gets our data? Are we doing what I did as I entered Epcot Center and mindlessly allowing organizations to collect our personal information? Or are we willing to ask the charming Disney host how we can enter the park without a finger scan?

Privacy is a critical issue which will significantly shape our future. Expect it to continue to grow more complex over time. We are already wary that our Smart TV’s are spying on us. How long until you have to give your fingerprint to use your Visa? In the information age, what do they really need to know? And why are you giving it to them if they don’t?


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor, consultant and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com




Photo Credit: Mark Goldhaber