An alternative to nationalism, 'e-residency'

A look at Estonia's move towards online residency

Nick Hales

The Green Party supported the aspiration for independence for Scotland in the recent referendum, although not everyone in the party agreed. Some of those opposing independence could perhaps be characterised as idealists who dream of a village earth, where common values incline us all to work together, never feeling that someone else is alien. Does this view of the world have any future, as in so many places, people are demanding independence and devolution?

An alternative lies in a new form of identity, pioneered in Estonia with the aim of 'moving towards the idea of a country without borders', called e-residency. The principle is that anyone in the world can become an electronic resident of Estonia, following a visit to the country in which their identity is confirmed. While different from 'e-citizenship' in that e-residents will not be able to vote in elections or apply for visas or passports, the status will enable anyone to have a bank account or start a business in Estonia. The government is aiming to have 10 million non-Estonian e-residents by 2025.

Gradually, we may transit to a situation where our online persona has as high a status as our offline identity.? Speaking of the Estonian initiative to the New Scientist, digital identity researcher John Clippinger from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, indicated that this could be the start of a trend in which countries compete for digital citizenship. He said: "This is the beginning of the erosion of the classic nation state hegemony"_ Given where things are going with the US National Security Agency, backdoors and control over personal data, I think this could be a starting point for people who don't trust their own governments."?

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