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    the story

    From occupation to 'digital nation'

    In 1991, when Estonia regained its independence from the Soviet Union, the government launched the development of an ambitious digital infrastructure. It became the focal point of a national strategy to ensure the success of the country’s democratic transition as well as its economic and social development.

    Estonia had the opportunity to start from scratch and invest in the newest information technologies then available. This was the beginning of e-Estonia, where 99% of public services are accessible online.

    The digital transformation has reaped economic and political benefits for the country, and raised its profile around the world as a ‘digital pathfinder’ and a ‘pioneer’ in e-governance.

    “Estonia has given an entirely different outlook on what a truly human-centric society entails for digital citizens.”


    E-⁠Residency: the beginnings

    E-⁠Residency was born from humble beginnings. In early 2014, a lean team was awarded a small grant to make their idea a reality.

    The idea was simple: issue a digital identity and status to people outside of Estonia and provide access to Estonia’s e-governance services and its open, trusted, transparent business environment.

    It was a new and radical idea and it was the first of its kind in the world. Estonia was truly pioneering something that no other government had done before — offering state services in the form of e-governance to people outside its borders.

    On 1 December 2014, Edward Lucas, then a Senior Editor at the Economist, became the first e-⁠resident. Now ten years later, the programme has grown bigger and better than expected.

    E-⁠Residency today

    E-⁠Residency remains a digital identity initiative. What it has also developed into is an entrepreneurship programme. E-⁠residents can start, run and grow businesses in Estonia, a member state of the European Union, Eurozone, NATO and the OECD. Operating a business in another country is not so novel - this has been possible for a long time. What's new is the way of managing business. Instead of excessive travelling and paperwork, entrepreneurs can use e-services and digital signatures to register and run their companies from anywhere in the world with just few clicks on their computers or even smartphones.
    Local and international laws regulating business apply to e-⁠resident companies, just like any company owned by an Estonian citizen. The e-⁠Residency team facilitates access to supporting services and information resources to help e-⁠residents navigate complex cross-border legal and tax regulations. The aim is to make operating an international business accessible to a wider range of entrepreneurs.

    Providing this supportive environment to people from around the world has fostered a unique, globally-minded and digitally connected community of entrepreneurs, startup founders, freelancers, digital nomads and more.

    How Estonia benefits

    We are very transparent about how e-⁠residents can benefit from being a part of the e-⁠Residency community and running their Estonian business 100% digitally, from anywhere in the world.

    But what was in it for Estonia? Broadly speaking, e-⁠Residency:

    1. Supports economic growth and innovation potential in Estonia;
    2. Shares Estonia's technologically innovative capabilities with the world; and
    3. Spreads awareness about and preserve the country’s rich history, culture, and language with people around the world.

    The Estonian people benefit from the program as a growing source of investment, tourism, private services fees, employment, taxation and more:

    • An innovative business service sector
    • Extensive customer base for Estonian service providers
    • Increased brain power
    • An attractive economy
    • Soft power on the global scale

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