Fortune has seen the future, and it is Estonia.
Or, as they like to call themselves, “e-Stonia.”
This tiny Baltic country, you see, has traveled the fascinating path from backward Soviet republic to bold digital leader, all in the span of its brief post-Cold War history. Fortune’s intrepid European correspondent Vivienne Walt, who has documented Amazon’s efforts in India and Unilever’s sojourn on planet Earth, traveled to Tallinn, the Estonian capital, and brought back a fascinating account of what the rest of us ought to be doing from an e-civics perspective.
Like African nations with poor analog phone systems that skipped right to mobile, Estonia had something of a blank slate when it set up its systems of governance. So the country of 1.3 million was able to start from scratch. Or, as Walt writes, the small nation, nestled between Latvia and Russia, is “a fast-forward example of extreme digital living.”
In Estonia, e-signatures have equal weight to written ones. That means the country is able to eliminate mounds of paperwork. All citizens file their taxes online. No dog-eared Social Security cards for Estonians: They have digital ID cards, useful for things like keeping medical records in the cloud. Estonia even offers a form of e-residency for foreigners wanting to set up businesses there, not unlike Delaware’s incorporation benefits in the United States.
These examples are the tip of the iceberg of a great Fortune yarn. I can see it being the kind of story that business and government leaders look back on 20 years from now and say, ‘Remember how in that gripping Fortune story only little Estonia was doing the things we all do now?’ Please read it and share it to your e-heart’s delight.
BITS AND BYTES
New FCC chairman sounds the death knell for net neutrality. In a speech on Wednesday, Ajit Pai said he wants to reverse rules that give the government more power over Internet service providers. The so-called net neutrality framework prevents those selling broadband Internet from creating a “fast lane” that prefers certain services or apps over others. His argument is that it limits innovation and investment—and costs jobs. The agency will vote on his proposal in mid-May, and will then accept comments. Let the lobbying begin because a big fight over the reversal is expected. (Reuters, New York Times, Wall Street Journal)
Digital advertising grew like gangbusters last year, thanks to Facebook and Google. Revenue for the sector reached a record $72.5 billion, according to data from the Interactive Advertising Bureau—that was an expansion of 20%. The two giant Internet companies accounted for almost 90% of the growth. And mobile ads accounted for more than half of the total. (Fortune, Wall Street Journal)
Samsung delivers solid quarter, reneges on restructuring plan. The South Korean conglomerate delivered best profit in three years, thanks to a big boost from its memory business during the first quarter. Samsung used its financial report to disclose that it won’t adopt a holding company structure, as activist investors have requested because it would hurt competition. (Reuters, Wall Street Journal, Wall Street Journal)
Can Google beat Amazon in cloud services by 2022? That’s the goal in mind for Diane Greene, who leads the division’s strategy, but the company has a huge gap to close. (Fortune)
Instagram reaches an important user milestone. The Facebook-owned photo-sharing service added more than 100 million users in the past four months along, pushing it over the 700 million mark. (Fortune)
Twitter’s latest quarter was surprisingly good. The social media company added 9 million monthly active users to boost it to 328 million in total, a much-higher-than-expected increase. Twitter also surpassed both revenue and profit expectations—the combined good news sent its stock up close to 8% on Wednesday. (Fortune)
PayPal’s mobile payments business is growing like crazy. The company’s Venmo service, an app that lets people send money to each other, handled a record $6.8 billion in the first quarter. That was double the amount of transactions processed in the year-earlier period. (Fortune, Reuters)
Well-known tech investor Chris Sacca is quitting the business. The former Google attorney invested early with Instagram and Uber, and rose to fame as one of the “sharks” on the Shark Tank television program. He hasn’t said what he’ll do next. (Fortune)
This marketing tech company just raised a whopping $140 million. Zeta Global, a company that specializes in marketing automation software, was built through a series of acquisitions. One of its co-founders is former Apple CEO John Sculley. (Fortune)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Facebook and Google Were Victims of $100 Million Payment Scheme, by Jeff John Roberts
Microsoft Claims Shipping Giant Maersk as Big Cloud Win, by Barb Darrow
Amazon Debuts a New Echo That Takes Hands-Free Pictures, by Leena Rao
Emma Watson’s Tech Nightmare in ‘The Circle’, by Jeff John Roberts