E-Residency and Blockchain
Posted: 2 Apr 2016
Date Written: March 31, 2016
In December 2014 Estonia became the first nation to open its digital borders to enable anyone, anywhere in the world to apply to become an Estonian e-Resident. Although labeled ‘residency,’ Estonian e-Residency is essentially a commercial initiative. The e-ID issued to Estonian e-residents enables commercial activities in the public and private sectors. It does not provide citizenship in its traditional sense. The e-ID provided to e-Residents is not a travel document but in many ways it is an international ‘passport’ to the virtual world. Like a passport, an e-ID is issued by a nation state. Unlike a passport, any citizen of any country can acquire this validated identity. As such, E-Residency is a profound change in global identity management. In addition, the recent announcement that the Estonian government is now partnering with Bitnation to offer a public notary service to Estonian e-Residents based on blockchain technology is of major significance. In particular, e-Residency raises questions of sovereignty, who vouches and backs identity, and who accepts a nation-state backed, yet commercial Internet identity. The application of blockchain to e-Residency has the potential to fundamentally change the way identity information is controlled and authenticated and used in the communications context. As far as we are aware, this is the first study of its kind to examine these policy issues around blockchain. This paper examines the legal, policy and technical implications of this development.
Keywords: Internet Governance, Identity Management, Economic Sovereignty, Policy
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