In a bid to boost inflow of foreign investment in the country, Estonia has decided to issue identity cards to enable individuals residing outside the country to access its digital services without any hassles.
This FDI-friendly move received unanimous support from lawmakers. With the passing of this law, foreigners can seek e-residence status and setup a company in Estonia or complete other legal transactions or sign legal documents from any location in the world. The law is set to be implemented from 1st December, 2014.
Estonia, which is proud birthplace of Skype, has always been open to use of technological innovations to improve quality of governance for its citizens. Home to 1.3 million people, the country has a paperless government and offers Internet voting to all its citizens. Estonian citizens are quite comfortable with technology with 95% of all tax declarations in 2013 being filed electronically. While 48 out of 100 EU citizens use online banking, 85 out of every 100 residents of Estonia make use of this service.
The digital identity card will be issued to all persons who have a connection with Estonia or who have a legal and valid interest to use the e-services offered by Estonia or use digital signatures in the country. The nation is targeting the creation of 5000 e-residents by 2020.
Until the passage of this law, digital signature was restricted to Estonian residents only. Non Estonian residents were required to follow a time-consuming and costly system of parallel system involving conventional paperwork. Since 2000, residents were allowed to rely solely on digital signatures.
Surprisingly, Estonia has lagged behind other EU nations that have already introduced digital identity cards for residents and foreigners seeking cross-border digital services in the Union.