Dec 08, 2014

What are the benefits of Estonia’s e-resident digital ID program?

I was listening to NPR a couple of days ago, and they had a segment about Estonia establishing a program that issues online IDs so people can prove they actually are who they claim to be. The program is just starting out, and the person being interviewed actually had to travel to Estonia to get his digital ID, but presumable you will be able to get it without the trip before too long. It was an interesting story, but I didn’t hear it all. What are the practical uses for a digital ID program?
I was able to find the Marketplace story (technically that’s APM not NPR) that you were talking about. The Estonian “E-Ambassador” discussed the program:

“E-residency is basically a government-guaranteed digital identity,” explains Siret Schutting, Estonia’s e-ambassador. “We are allowing foreigners to acquire what every Estonian already has: a digital signature. This means they can securely sign documents online. It’s legally the same as a handwritten signature.”

A direct benefit now is that it allows foreigners to start a business “in” estonia.

“You can open up a bank account, start a company, run a company, all that stuff," says Taavi Kotka of the Ministry for Economic Affairs. "We’re aiming to sign up 10 million e-residents. That would give a big boost to the Estonian economy. More customers for our banks, for telecom companies ... for everybody.”
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