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!


Head Shot

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

Going Tribal: When Globalization Fails

Much ado about globalization has occurred over the past two decades. Spurred by technology, the ease of travel and our never-ending appetite for cheap products, our globe has seemingly grown smaller as more and more cultures connect to do business.

However, trends are often accompanied by counter-trends. This simply means that a segment of the population pulls in the opposite direction as a means to counter a trend they do not like. For example, the modern trend of ever-present technology is increasingly facing a counter-trend of ‘unplugging’. There are vacations designed to help people unplug and even recovery groups for those addicted to technology (similar to AA).

Europe is currently in the midst a major counter-trend against globalization.  It is called tribalism and I believe that its’ impact will signal a major change in the globalization norms we have experienced in recent decades. Tribalism refers to a way of thinking or behaving that places your loyalty with your ‘tribe’ (a group with whom you share affinity) rather than to your country, social group or friends. While globalization has quietly turned us into a global village, tribalism seeks to ensure that we take care of the needs of our own little village first! Here are two examples of how tribalism is currently manifesting itself in Europe.

  1. Immigration. There is tremendous backlash in many parts of Europe as a result of the major influx of refugees that many countries have experienced. A country like Germany has been welcoming millions of immigrants with open arms (an example of an attitude that embraces globalization). At the same time, we see other countries closing their borders and citizens mounting protests against immigration (an example of tribalism).
  2. Brexit. On June 23, British citizens will vote to determine if their nation will leave the European Union (EU). This issue is closely related to many of the issues noted above regarding immigration and perceptions that leaving the EU will protect British financial interests (consider the recent monetary bailouts for Greece). To loosely quote Shakespeare, this referendum can be summarized as,”To be globalized or to be tribalized. That is the question“.

The counter trend of tribalism also manifests itself in our workplaces. For example, business departments that seek their own needs ahead of the company they work for are demonstrating an aspect of tribalism. Concerns about members of the same family working for the same company or department (typically called nepotism) also relates to concerns about tribalism.

Globalism and tribalism and complex issues that I cannot adequately debate in this short blog. However, awareness about this tug of war between global and tribal priorities is something that we each need to develop. Expect it to continue to increase in significance in the decade ahead.


Head Shot

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