Transgressing the Boundaries of Working Life

On my way to a conference, The Boundaries of Working Life, hosted by LabourNet at the University of Tampere in Finland, I came across an article about an initiative in Estonia that, for businesses and business owners worldwide, transgresses some of the boundaries of working life. Estonia is “the first country in the world offering e-residency – a platform of advanced government and business services that is open to virtually everyone on the planet.” (See the full article in Blue Wings, Finnair’s inflight magazine, here on page 66). Considering the conference I was about to attend and my interest in citizenship matters, this innovative idea which allows companies to be established in and trade in Estonia without the owners having to step foot in the country, captured my attention and I read on eagerly.

The article only really outlined the basic idea and so I googled e-residency when I got home. The ambitions of the e-residency scheme apparently reach beyond simply encouraging entrepreneurs and business owners to do business in Estonia. According to an article by tech magazine, Wired,  the goal is for business owners worldwide to set up and run their businesses from Estonia, without stepping foot in the country. By linking their tax office to others around the world, and providing efficient, easy-to-use digitalized infrastructure, Estonia will seemingly make running a business a less time consuming affair … and time is arguably  one of the most valuable resources of our time:

“A UK-based entrepreneur, they hope, will decide to open her business in Estonia, use an Estonian bank and pay for some Estonian services, even if the company was only going to be trading in the UK, because she would find Estonia’s national infrastructure far easier to deal with than the UK’s. In other words, a nation is now competing with its neighbours on the basis of the quality of its user interface. Just as you might switch your bank to one with a better mobile app, the Estonians hope you’ll switch your business to a country with an infrastructure that is easier to use.” 

Ben Hammersley, www.wired.co.uk, 4 February 2015

Not only is Estonia enabling entrepreneurs and business owners to transgress the boundaries of working life, the country is also providing an incentive for other states to improve their digital infrastructure, and fast. To my mind, the concept of e-residency is another phenomenon which forces us to consider what the future of ‘citizenship’ is or could be. What is your take on the matter?

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