One of the EU's smallest countries is hoping to attract foreign investors by introducing the world's first e-residency card. As Sonia Legg reports Estonia is offering entrepreneurs around the globe access to its banks and other electronic resources.
It's one of Europe's smallest countries - but Estonia's population is about to increase dramatically - online anyway. It's just become the world's first "e-residency." You won't be able to vote or get a residents' identity card. But anyone, anywhere will be able to get a permit enabling them to access all e-Estonia services. That includes opening a bank account and running a business. Taavi Kotka is from the MInistry of Economic Affairs and Communications. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DEPUTY SECRETARY GENERAL FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND STATE INFORMATION SYSTEMS AT ESTONIAN MINISTRY OF ECONOMIC AFFAIRS AND COMMUNICATIONS, TAAVI KOTKA, SAYING: "Estonia also is very digitally advanced. We thought why not to open up our country in digital way? The way that people actually can live wherever they want to live but they can be part of our economy." French entrepreneur Jerome Beigbeder is certainly in favour. He's lived in Finland and France and believes this will attract other small and medium business investors. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FRENCH ENTREPRENEUR, JEROME BEIGBEDER, SAYING: "It simplifies everything. To be able to manage this from the Cloud, from a distance, from anywhere you are, it's pretty impressive." Eastern Europe offers many opportunities. This virtual service could attract those who see potential but are nervous about making a physical plunge. SOUNDBITE) (English) DEPUTY SECRETARY GENERAL FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND STATE INFORMATION SYSTEMS AT ESTONIAN MINISTRY OF ECONOMIC AFFAIRS AND COMMUNICATIONS, TAAVI KOTKA, SAYING: "In Estonia we have 30 thousand active companies. So, even if we could get like 10 thousand more, it would be great success for Estonia." 12,000 people have already signed up for e-residency. Estonia's target is 10 million by 2025 (SOUNDBITE) (English) FRENCH ENTREPRENEUR, JEROME BEIGBEDER, SAYING: "When I was in Finland it was easy, just take the ferry. When I was in France it was more complicated. So you can easily imagine how easier it would make to be able to do this from my computer." At the moment you can't avoid coming to Estonia entirely - two visits two weeks apart to a border guards' office or a police station are necessary in order to get the physical e-resident's card. But even that may not be the case in the future - Estonia is planning to open virtual embassies meaning e-residents will never need to visit the country.