Welcome to our digital nation, Bill Gates.

Bill Gates was presented with e-Residency today by Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.

Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas today bestowed e-Residency of Estonia on US citizen William Henry Gates III — better known as Bill Gates.

The Prime Minister presented the entrepreneur and philanthropist with his e-Residency digital ID card as an early birthday present during a meeting this morning in Brussels in which they discussed how Estonia’s experience as a digital nation can benefit more people and countries around the world. The Prime Minister also highlighted a number of ways in which Estonia’s public and private sector could provide greater value to the inspiring work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Almost all e-residents apply online themselves, but Bill Gates is one of the few people to have received e-Residency as a gift from the Republic of Estonia — along with world leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and most recently His Holiness the Pope.

Estonia’s citizens, residents and e-residents can use their digital IDs to digitally sign documents and access almost all government services entirely online from anywhere. At present, the primary benefit of this for e-residents (who are not physically based in Estonia) is to establish and manage a trusted EU company entirely online from anywhere.

As a result, e-Residency is helping democratise access to entrepreneurship globally. Crucially, Estonia has a transparent business environment and e-Residency does not override existing international rules such as taxation so when citizens around the world benefit from e-Residency, so too do the countries where the value is generated. We have even joined forces with the United Nations for an initiative called eTrade For All, which aims to help more people in developing countries access e-commerce. You can read more about it here:

The UN is watching as e-residents break down barriers to entrepreneurship

Like e-Residency, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is based on equalising access to opportunities around the world. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people — especially those with the fewest resources — have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life.

We don’t expect Bill Gates to start another company himself using e-Residency of course. But providing influential friends of Estonia with e-Residency is an invaluable way to help them learn more about our digital nation and raise greater awareness of how Estonia is helping improve the world using new technology and new ways of thinking.

Interestingly though, Bill Gates has already had a role in Estonian startup history. The company he founded, Microsoft, went on to acquire Estonia’s first unicorn startup, Skype. The success of Skype had a major role in the development of Estonia’s business ecosystem that now serves citizens, residents and e-residents. Many of Estonia’s most successful companies today were created by former employees of Skype because those people invested back into Estonia not just using their new skills and capital, but also using their new ways of thinking about the power of digital disruption. Estonia now has four unicorn startups, including TransferWise and Taxify, which were founded by former Skype employees.

You can read more about the story of Skype on Microsoft’s blog here.

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