Estonia has 35,000 e-residents, most are Finnish, Russian and Ukrainian

15 May 2018 4 min. read

Estonia is attracting consultants from around the globe with the nation’s digital identity cards for business. Accessing the card means becoming a digital or e-Resident and allows the holder to start a business and pay tax in Estonia through the country’s ultramodern technology infrastructure. The country’s aim is to spread the digital citizenship globally, empowering people from all corners of the globe to connect and innovate.  

Estonia is tucked up in the Baltic States and was part of the former Soviet Union, so when the Iron Curtain came down and the country gained independence, the government had to look for a new ‘identity’. With a relatively small, spread out population of 1.3 million and an ageing Russian infrastructure, government officials in Tallinn knew they had to go big to put Estonia on the map. The country digitalised rapidly and within twenty years became a global leader in digital operations and governance.

The infrastructure put in place is considered by pundits as state-of-the-art and leading worldwide. From voting to municipality services and beyond, the country has transformed almost all functions performed by the government into an online service. And the actual government itself has gone paperless; even the President of Estonia signs national bills on a screen and all legislation is available online for public scrutiny and input.

Where do Estonia’s registered e-residents come from?

Not only is this e-governance system a testament to Estonian innovation, it is also designed to attract innovation itself. Since late 2014, it has been possible for foreign citizens from anywhere in the world to become an e-Resident of Estonia and take advantage of the country’s business environment. E-citizenship does not provide entrepreneurs working-rights in the country or residency in the EU, but it does allow them to administer a business through the country’s infrastructure and benefit from a lower cost of government administration.

The e-Residency programme currently hosts over 35,000 people (e-Residents) from over 150 countries. The concept has attracted people from all over the world to what the Republic of Estonia calls the ‘new digital nation’ – many of the e-residents are tech-savvy entrepreneurs who are excited about being part of something new. The Estonian government believes that with every dollar that they put into further developing the infrastructure, it will bring $100 to the nation.

An analysis on the different demographics of e-citizenship shows that Finland, Russia and the Ukraine are the biggest users of the e-Residency programme, with 88% being male. The data also shows that the main sector utilising the programme for their business activities are management and business consultants.

e-Residency popular among consultants

Consultants are attracted by the digital nation concept due to the international nature of consulting work. Business and marketing consultancy Anywhere Consulting’s founder Peter Benei is an Estonian e-Resident and advocates the programme for other entrepreneurs and consultants citing three main reasons: minimalism, transparency, and long-term benefits.Most of Estonia's e-residents are consultants and IT professionalsAnywhere Consulting helps entrepreneurs to launch, build and grow their remote business. Benei commented on the programme;  “I run my business remotely, which means business without borders. Everything is not just digital – it has to be digital, otherwise I can’t work with it. I have clients from all around the world, I need access to global payment services and tools which help me to automate, run and manage my business, anywhere I go. With the Estonian company, I have full access to everything.”

He continues: “I truly think e-Residency is the future for everyone. All other governments should treat their countries’ business environment like this little European country does: 100% online, transparent and minimalist. After all, it’s a service for those who want to get things done and do business. Governments should not waste their entrepreneurs’ time and should help them whenever they can to provide services that help building fruitful and growing businesses.”