estonia e-residency
Estonia is to allow anyone to become a digital citizen of the European Union.CC

Estonia is to become the first country to offer e-residency to people around the world, offering state-proven digital identities that give access to services like online banking, education, and healthcare.

The issuing of smart ID cards will begin towards the end of the year, with anyone eligible to apply to become an "e-Estonian".

"Once they have digital identity, just like Estonian residents, they can get all their everyday matters done very easily and conveniently - like banking, government dealings, company management and medical visits," Siim Sikkut, ICT policy adviser at the Government Office of Estonia, told IBTimes UK.

"With e-residency, you can become part of the digital society revolution taking place in our dynamic northern European country."

The issuing of digital identities comes as part of the e-Estonia initiative that aims to make the Baltic country "one of the most advanced e-societies in the world" through new digital infrastructure and collaborations between the government and the ICT industry.

Digital citizenship

The card will only be available to start with from a Police and Border Guard office in Estonia, however there are plans to extend the capacity to process e-residency applications at Estonian embassies abroad by the end of 2015.

"E-residency gives secure access to online services and the ability to digitally sign in a legally binding manner just like Estonians do," Sikkut said. "Such digital identification and signing is legally fully equal to face-to-face identification and handwritten signatures in the European Union."

The service is primarily aimed at those who already have ties with Estonia, either through business, studying, or as a tourist, while it is also hoped that e-residency will attract new customers to Estonia's digital services through its functionality as a platform to both provide and use digital services around the world.

"We plan to keep adding new useful services from early 2015 onwards," Sikkut said.

"E-residency is also launched as a platform to offer digital services to a global audience with no prior Estonian affiliation - for anybody who wants to run their business and life in the most convenient aka digital way!"