Estonia will hand out digital ID cards to non-residents

Estonia's digital ID card

Digital ID cards are still a rarity in most countries, but they're a staple of everyday life in Estonia -- locals use them for everything from e-voting to buying mass transit tickets. You currently have to live in the country to take advantage of these cards, however, and that's creating a real problem for non-residents wanting to set up shop. To solve this, Estonia now plans to hand out this identification to non-residents at the end of 2014, making it the first country to have a globally relevant digital ID. So long as applicants can provide the same biometric data and documents (along with a fee of around €30 to €50), they'll get either a card or a digital-only equivalent they can store on a smartphone's SIM card.

The UK and other countries have pushed for digital cards before, but they've typically been shot down due to high costs, fears about government spying or both -- needless to say, those worries have only gotten worse in recent years. It's doubtful Estonia's global ID concept will spread to other countries in the near future as a result. With that said, the move is likely to boost not just the country's own welfare, but those of many people abroad. Getting that identity lets you quickly launch or participate in a business, authenticate on many local web services and even send heavily encrypted email. The nation hopes to have 10 million of these virtual Estonians (nearly eight times its actual population of 1.3 million) by 2025, so it's clearly counting on a lot of interest in its technology.