The Capital of the digital future

Tallinn contrast - 1.jpg

Having just returned back to a bitterly cold Britain from the Mobile World Congress (#MWC18) in Barcelona, I'm still buzzing with all of the Virtual Reality, AI and connected cars. All the major telecoms and device companies were there apart from Apple, so the place was an abundant orchard heaving with ripe new mobile devices. There were crowds thronging around the VR and AI applications on show at every major stall. All very clever, but nothing really very different from anyone else, or from what we were expecting.

The Americans, Koreans, Japanese, and Saudis were all showing connected cars and connected homes. Again very clever, again all very similar. And here it was not clear what the benefit for the consumer was, unless you prefer turning on your tv and your kettle from your phone rather than the regular switch. And just as so-called Smart Meters seem to offer more benefits for the energy utilities than the consumers, the connected cars real benefit seems to be for the state, or whoever is trying to manage the urban traffic flows, rather than the driver. Sure, if you don't want to drive, an autonomous vehicle has its advantages, but you could just as well take a taxi, or an Uber, or - even more socially sound - a bus. If the consumers are going to pick up the added cost of sophisticated and expensive connectivity, then the consumer benefits will have to become clearer.

It was only when I got back that I really felt I joined the digital world. I did something that wasn't possible a few years ago, and still is only possible in one small part of the planet. I became an e-resident of Estonia. From the comfort of my own home. And have registered my digitally connected company, Hensley Partners OƜ. It is a private limited company, registered in Estonia, all set up online. Company registration, tax registration, everything. A real, digital company within the EU.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a meeting, the Brand Finance Global Forum, where Matt Hancock, the UK's Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport was speaking. Having announced that he had set up his own Matt Hancock App, he bravely took some questions from the floor. Asked what he thought of digital democracy, he answered that "the reason we don't think digital voting would be good for the UK is all around ID verification". Now I have my Estonian digital ID card, with its 2048-bit public key encryption, similar to that Estonians have been using for e-voting for Parliamentary elections since 2007, I am convinced that the capital of the digital future is not London, nor is it Barcelona - it is the snowy home of Skype: Tallinn, Estonia.

Hensley Partners