“Estonia’s President Alar Karis on the Nation’s Digital Transformation, Unicorn Success, and Global Entrepreneurship”
Renowned for its cultural heritage and scenic landscapes, Estonia, with its population of 1.3 million, has become more than just a tourist attraction. Under the leadership of President Alar Karis, a prominent scientist and statesman, Estonia has emerged as a hub for digital technology, billion-dollar startups, and international entrepreneurs.
President Karis, who assumed office in October last year, attributes Estonia’s twenty-first-century success to over two decades of strategic planning. The country’s digital journey began with a forward-thinking approach to leadership, exemplified by the introduction of compulsory digital IDs for all residents. Estonia gained global recognition in 2005 by pioneering online voting, setting the stage for further digital advancements. Presently, the United Nations ranks Estonia third globally in digital advancement, with 99% of public services available online and free of charge—a collaborative effort between the state and private enterprises.
The synergy between the public and private sectors extends beyond e-services, with Estonia now home to eight unicorn companies, the highest per capita globally. President Karis credits this achievement to the robust education system, emphasizing that the foundation for these unicorns lies in Estonia’s schools. The conducive environment, coupled with easy company startup procedures, has fostered a culture of entrepreneurship, even among academics like President Karis, who started a company during his tenure as a university professor.
Estonia’s commitment to digital ease extends to international entrepreneurs through the e-Residency scheme introduced in 2014. Aimed at nomadic professionals, the program, which boasts over 90,000 residents, facilitates easy access to Estonian services for business setup and operations.
The successful combination of e-residency initiatives and a thriving digital landscape has propelled Estonia’s economy, with a projected GDP growth of 4.5% in 2022. President Karis remains optimistic despite a forecasted dip to 3.8% in 2023, citing Estonia’s openness for business and ongoing sectoral developments. However, he acknowledges the unpredictable economic landscape shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine.
Expressing concern as a NATO member, Estonia stands in solidarity with Ukraine against aggression. President Karis affirms the country’s commitment to providing humanitarian, military, and political aid to the Ukrainian people. As Estonia navigates these challenging times, President Karis pledges support to both Estonians and foreign residents, underscoring the nation’s dedication to success through education, innovative policies, and digital technology.