Exploring digital sustainability of/through Estonia’s e-residency: Africa’s case and the importance of culture for sustainability

Tam Abaku, S. Calzati, Anu Masso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Purpose
This paper aims to take the lead from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 9 and 10 – foster “resilient infrastructures and inclusive innovation” and “reduce disparities of opportunities, income and power” – as key for digital sustainability. Moving beyond existing research, here this paper conceptualise “digital sustainability” as a framework for analysing the sustainability of digital services.

Design/methodology/approach
Combining different works, this paper identifies five dimensions: social, economic, institutional, environmental and technical. The framework is then tested on Estonia’s e-residency program, of which, in this way, this paper explores the potential digital sustainability. By allowing anyone to run location-independent businesses as if virtually in Estonia, the e-residency program aligns to what SDGs 9 and 10 prescribe in terms of socio-economic inclusiveness and inclusive innovation. As such, the program is particularly valuable for citizens from developing countries in that it gives them access to European markets. Hence, to explore e-residency’s digital sustainability, this paper focuses on the experiences of African e-residents.

Findings
In-depth interviews highlight a series of criticalities involving one or more dimensions of the framework. This is because of the program having a global outreach by default but not accommodating contextual diversity by design.

Originality/value
Suggestions for improving the program are provided, alongside the recommendation to also include the cultural dimension into the conceptualisation of digital sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDigital Policy, Regulation and Governance
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

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