Estonia, one of the smaller countries in the European Union, is becoming one of its most fascinating for the Fintech entrepreneur, partly because there are so many innovative companies that have come out of Estonia – think Skype and Transferwise – and now because the government is digitising its services using blockchain technology.
One of its most sensational advances has been establishing the ‘e-residency programme’ that allows any person, anywhere in the world to simply make an online application and become a virtual Estonian citizen. This can prove extremely helpful for those who want to establish a business outside their usual country of residence, because once you’re an e-resident of Estonia, you can have a business address and bank account there. And, as a virtual citizen, that person can access the same online platforms that Estonia’s physical economy is based on, and the same online public services that native Estonians use. It is also working on bringing blockchain technology to a number of public services projects, such as its healthcare service, and there are plans for an Estonian digital currency.
Other countries competing with Estonia
It seems that if any country can make blockchain work on a bigger scale and showcase its potential, Estonia is the one most likely to do it first. Fellow EU member country Slovenia is following in Estonia’s steps and hoping to outperform it. The UK is another country that is piloting blockchain in the public sector; in its case it is trialling a scheme to pay health benefits claimants. And Russia’s national bank has signed a deal to develop a national system called Ethereum Russia.
China will re-introduce ICOs
And where Russia goes, China is never far behind. It is looking at the prospects of developing a national crytpocurrency. Yes, China did ban ICOs, but that was only a temporary measure and not the absolute end of ICOs in China. Now it is looking at introducing a regulatory framework for ICOs that will prevent illegal activity in this massively growing method of fundraising for Fintech startups. It will be something like the licensing system called BitLicense, used in New York State, most experts suggest.
China should move quickly, because the countries that are showing support for ICOs and blockchain will take business away from the Chinese blockchain community and send it to Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. Meanwhile in Europe, all eyes are still on Estonia, which has grasped the power of blockchain technology and is fast becoming the ‘Blockchain Valley’ of Europe.