The UN is watching as e-residents break down barriers to entrepreneurship

A year after e-Residency joined forces with the UN, we’re returning to discuss how more global entrepreneurs can access e-commerce.

One year ago, the e-Residency programme joined forces with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to launch eTrade For All — a groundbreaking initiative to help unlock global growth by giving more people the opportunity to benefit from e-commerce.

This week, we are back at the UN office in Geneva to share our experiences and discuss how together we can help even more entrepreneurs grow their companies in the new digital economy.

We are first taking part in e-Commerce Week activities and will then provide expertise to the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on E-commerce and the Digital Economy. Both events are organised by UNCTAD, the main organ of the UN General Assembly that deals with trade, investment and development matters.

E-Commerce Week

E-Commerce Week is the leading forum for Ministers, senior government officials, business leaders, international organizations, development banks, academics and civil society to discuss the opportunities and challenges of the evolving digital economy.

As founding partners of eTrade for All, the e-Residency programme will play an important part of this conversation during this conference. The event will also serve as an opportunity for eTrade for All partners to come together and discuss the next steps forward in their cooperation.

We were joined by Arzu Altinay, an e-resident entrepreneur from Turkey, who shared her own powerful story about how she used the programme to overcome barriers to e-commerce and grow her business. Arzu is a professional tour guide from Istanbul, but almost lost her business when PayPal stopped operating in Turkey around the same time that the country experienced a decline in tourism. By using e-Residency, she was able to access payment providers again and expand her business across Europe.

E-Residency can significantly improve access to entrepreneurship, but — crucially — it does not override existing international rules such as taxation. So when citizens around the world benefit from e-Residency, so too do the countries where the value is generated.

Victoria Saue, Head of Risk, Legal and Compliance at e-Residency, also emphasised the value of digital identity and data protection during a session organised by the World Bank’s Lead Counsel.

The CEO of Finnish fintech firm Holvi, Antti-Jussi Suominen, also provided his perspective about how the financial technology industry can help support borderless entrepreneurship and access to a wider choice of services online.

Antti-Jussi Suominen from Holvi, Victoria Saue from e-Residency, and e-resident entrepreneur Arzu Altinay speaking at the UN.

Intergovernmental Group of Experts

UNCTAD has five groups of experts, which are responsible for the official guidelines to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

Myself and Victoria Saue, Head of Legal, Risk and Compliance will represent e-Residency and act as specialists at one of those groups — the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on e-Commerce and the Digital Economy (IGE).

The main issue being discussed concerns international e-commerce platforms and what barriers need to be overcome to ensure more people from developing countries can benefit from their transformative impact.

We will use this opportunity to share how tools like e-Residency can be used by entrepreneurs for conducting domestic and cross-border e-commerce by providing them with a higher level of trust (in this case through a government-issued digital identity), improving their access to the financial tools needed to run their company, and lowering their administrative burdens.

The other experts speaking alongside e-Residency include eBay’s Director Global Public Policy, Alibaba’s Vice President Global Initiatives, and Google’s Head of Global Trade Policy. The session was moderated by Ambassador Andre Pung, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Estonia to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations in Geneva.

The policy recommendations and outcomes from this and then considered by the Trade and Development Board, which oversees the activities of UNCTAD.

You can read more about our thoughts on the digital disruption of international trade below.

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