Estonia has a special place in my physical and digital world. The Republic of Estonia is a country on the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered on the north by the Gulf of Finland, on the west by the Baltic Sea, on the south by Latvia, and on the east by Russia. Some years ago, I was on a Baltic cruise which made a stop in Tallinn, the capital and largest city of Estonia. I was quite impressed with ancient narrow streets lined with cars from BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche. I later learned Tallinn was a high tech center of innovation. Skype was created by Estonian software developers.
Estonia is a beautiful country rich in culture. Last night, I was fortunate to attend a concert by The Estonian National Symphony Orchestra (ERSO) in St. Augustine, Florida. The ERSO traces its roots to 1926. It made its first international concert tour to Romania and Bulgaria in 1972, and has since gone on performing tours all over the world. It is currently on a seven-city tour in America, and last night was the first.
The orchestra has performed with many world-renowned conductors and soloists. Conductor Arvo Volmer is widely acclaimed. Violinist Triin Ruubel was a treat. She played the three movements of Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor. Her performance was amazing and the standing ovation was sustained. After the intermission, Volmer conducted Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7 in D minor. The orchestra played brilliantly with a balance of strings, woodwinds, and brass. The performance was stunning.
The musical concert by Estonian’s was quite impressive, but I am equally impressed with Estonia’s digital leadership. As I described in Election Attitude – How Internet Voting Leads to a Stronger Democracy, Estonia has conducted national elections using the Internet for more than a decade with no security or privacy problems. Strong leadership and vision from the President of the country helped make this possible, but an important factor is Estonia has a digital ID card for all citizens. The chip card enables Estonians to sign contracts, start businesses, retrieve health records, and vote. The country has recently extended its digital leadership outside of its borders.
Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia, said,
Even though there are only a little over a million of us, thanks to Estonia’s capabilities, we can make ten million payments, perform ten million requests and sign ten million contracts in just ten minutes. Even ten times larger states cannot beat us. But the good news is that it is possible to join our exclusive club of digitally empowered citizens.
I decided to take her up on the idea, and applied for an e-Residency in September. After submitting passport and other identifying information online, I received approval in October. I then visited the Estonian Embassy in New York in December, presented my passport, and got finger-printed. I was handed my e-Residency chip card. A subsequent email from the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board confirmed they had “granted e-Residency to JOHN RUSSELL PATRICK”.
You may be wondering what in the world I am going to do with my e-Residency. Not sure just yet. I may create an EU sister company to Attitude LLC. Not sure what that company would do. Anyway, I feel good I am walking the talk. We really should have national digital IDs in America. This would simplify e-commerce and healthcare records, and enable most of the 100 million people who did not vote in 2016 because they could not get to the polls to use Internet voting. There is a path to create a national digital ID, but that will have to wait until another posting.