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Transnational Digital Identity as an Instrument for Global Digital Citizenship: The Case of Estonia’s E-Residency

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Digital identity systems appear as part of the digital infrastructure that enables individuals to participate in society as digital citizens. This paper examines the implications of Estonia’s e-residency, the transnational digital identity scheme implemented by the Estonian government in order to give non-residents of the country remote access to Estonia’s digital infrastructure and e-services, for global digital citizenship. We explain the adoption of e-residency by analyzing how individual motives to apply for a digital identity are affected by both individual-level socio-demographic characteristics and macro-level characteristics measuring digital and economic development in applicant’s country of origin. The findings suggest that individual motives to adopt e-residency vary depending on both the citizenship of applicants and the level of e-government development in the country of origin. Although attracting more citizens from digitally advanced countries, individual motives indicate that e-residency can compensate certain digital disadvantage to citizens of countries with lower levels of e-government development.

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  1. We consider “electronic” identity (eID) synonymously with “digital” identity as defined here.

  2. Up-to-date statistics about the applications of e-residency is published on the website

  3. Since the beginning of the programme in December 2014, declined applications have formed ca 1% of all applications of e-residency.

  4. In both macro-level variables, the fourth category indicating “low level of e-government development” and “low income” is missing in the sample used for the regression analysis, as there were more than 100 applicants from the countries characterized by these categories.

  5. The order of countries based on the number of applicants is slightly different in the sample used for the current study, especially regarding Russia, due to excluded applications that with omitted motives.


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The preparation of this article was supported by the grants from the Estonian Research Council (PUT1624, IUT 20-38) and by the developmental programme ASTRA of Tallinn University of Technology for years 2016-2022 (2014-2020.4.01.16-0032). The authors would like to thank Estonian Police and Border Guard Board for the cooperation in issuing the data for this research.

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Correspondence to Piia Tammpuu.

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Appendix 1

Appendix 1

Table 5 Individual motives to adopt e-residency and country-level explanatory variables by countries

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Tammpuu, P., Masso, A. Transnational Digital Identity as an Instrument for Global Digital Citizenship: The Case of Estonia’s E-Residency. Inf Syst Front 21, 621–634 (2019).

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