The most advanced digital society in the world is a former Soviet Republic on the edge of the Baltic Sea. From summer 2015, you can apply for a e residency in Estonia online. You want to open a business, say once you have your e residence status, you can go online from wherever you are on the planet, log on to the government portal with your e residence card, and use it to form your Estonian company, then register with an Estonian bank and start trading.

The Estonians want to offer the option for, say, UK citizens to run their UK companies through the Estonian system, which would in turn, in the background, with no extra work for the user, make sure that the UK tax office receives all the money it is legally due. A UK based entrepreneur, they hope, will decide to open her business in Estonia, use an Estonian bank and pay for some Estonian services, even if the company was only going to be trading in the UK, because she would find Estonia national infrastructure far easier to deal with than the UKs. In other words, a nation is now competing with its neighbours on the basis of the quality of its user interface. Just as you might switch your bank to one with a better mobile app, the Estonians hope you'll switch your business to a country with an infrastructure that is easier to use.

To be clear, this does not involve actually becoming Estonian, or even physically being in Estonia. There may be only 1.3 million Estonians, but they are perfectly happy with the arrival of non nationals. Instead, they are hoping to spread the ideas of their powerful internet-based services and promote their national brand, in order to coax others to use them from afar. And perhaps also to spread the idea to other countries that such a thing is possible.

Today, the fact that every interaction with, and within, the Estonian government happens digitally has had subtle social effects. For example, apart from only carrying two cards (driving licences, donor cards and the like have been subsumed into identity cards), Estonians have complete control over their personal data. The portal you can access with your identity card gives you a log of everyone who has accessed it.

Until today, Estonia's infrastructure has only been available to Estonians. Now due to the new modern technology combined with the e residence concept all people on the planet have the possibility to use it too. According to the International Telecommunications Union, by 2020 80 per cent of the world population will own a smartphone. Perhaps, soon after, where they choose to live and work and place their businesses will depend as much on the fertility of their countrys digital infrastructure as its land. Welcome to e-Estonia, says its website, and enjoy a hassle-free life!