Who gets a ‘digital identity’ in Estonia?
Estonia, which gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, is one of the fastest countries in preparing for the 4th Industrial Revolution in the European Union.
The country has been ranked 32nd at World Economic Forum’s recently announced “Global Competitiveness Index” out of 140 countries.
This is 30 places higher than where Turkey is ranked.
Estonia also came second just after Germany in an OECD report, which was published last year.
Estonia was one of the sponsors of the “Startup Istanbul” summit, which was organized by Burak Büyükdemir, the founder of Etohum, a startup capital venture catalyzer.
We recently met with Arnaud Castaignet, who is responsible for communications works at the e-residency program of Estonia. Castaignet is one of the speakers of the “Startup Istanbul” summit this year, which will be held with the theme of “Istanbul: The New Capital of Startups.”
Castaignet previously took part in the communication team of former French President François Hollande.
After leaving Hollande’s team in 2016, he went to Estonia upon an invitation from Kersti Kaljulaid, the first female president of the country.
He has been living in Tallinn since then.
I asked him what was behind Estonia’s digital revolution.
“After gaining its independence in 1991, the Estonian economy filed for bankruptcy. As the country had to plan everything from the beginning, it started to work to build its digital infrastructure. Eight years later, the most effective e-government of Europe was online in Estonia,” he said.
Estonia launched a “digital identity” system in 2002.
“This system is operational in almost all parts of the people’s lives, with the exception of marriages, divorces and real estate purchases,” he added.
Finally, in 2014, the Estonian government introduced an e-residency program for the first time in the world, through which it gives people of other nationalities to get an official “digital identity” right.
Those who have the right of e-residence can establish a company in Estonia, which is an EU member.
They can also benefit from the highly effective public e-services with their official digital identities.
People from other countries like Turkey can found companies in EU territories by using this right, thus getting rid of long and complex bureaucratic procedures.
270 Turkish companies
In the last three years, some 47,000 people from 157 different countries got an e-residence in Estonia.
Finnish people established the largest number of companies with 4,240 units, followed by Russia, Ukraine, Germany, France and Italy.
So far, under the program, 270 were established by Turkish people and 1,400 Turkish citizens received an e-residency.
According to information given by Castaignet, the newly-established Turkish companies mainly operate in software development, design, marketing and advertising.
In Estonia, which has written a success story on digital revolution, there are four startups whose worth are over $1 billion. The number is the same in France.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are among those to whom Estonia gave an official digital identity.
Pope Francis and Bill Gates have recently received the identity directly from Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.