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Estonia becomes first country to offer e-residency digital citizenship

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

The Republic of Estonia, a small country in northeastern Europe, has become the world’s first country to offer e-residency. A new scheme has allowed people from all over the world to get a digital identity provided by the Estonian government and set up a company with zero per cent corporate tax in Estonia.

The credit card sized e-residency permit provides the holder with an array of services, like submitting taxes online, accessing bank accounts, digitally signing documents, etc.

In a short span of six months after the scheme’s launch, Estonia already has 2,000 e-residents. According to a news report, Estonia is planning to increase this number to 10,000 by the end of this year.

This scheme gives access to the digital services of Estonia; however, the card should not be mistaken for unrestricted access to Estonia or the European Union (EU). The managing director of the e-Estonia showroom, Siret Schutting told IANS, “The services of the e-residency card are restricted to the virtual world, so residency or citizen services are not included and this cannot be used as an identification card or replace the mandatory visa or passport for entry into the EU.”

Since this scheme of e-citizenship is a fairly new product, several modifications are being done to it in order to improve the services it offers. Earlier, it was essential for a new e-resident to be present in Estonia at least once to identify him/her with biometric data. However, now all these formalities can be completed in any of the Estonian embassies located globally.

India has responded to this new scheme in a positive manner. Estonian Ambassador to India, Viljar Lubi, said, “Interest in India has been very keen, even without us actively promoting it. In India, it has been proved time and again that good ideas spread the fastest by word of mouth.”

This scheme is very useful for the entrepreneurs who intend to expand their business to the European Union. An Indian businessman, Bashyam Krishnan, told the news agency, “This is a simple and accessible gateway to the European Union. One can set up a company within 10 minutes. And from there on, the EU becomes your market.”

Krishnan added, “The services offered as a part of this are varied and nearly everything can be done with the touch of a button. The system is that easy and user friendly. Additionally, multiple security measures are there from secure passwords to a log system to check illegal access. I believe that it is extremely secure.”

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Eastern Europe Sees A Rise in Number of HIV Cases

Since the start of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, more than 77 million people worldwide have become infected with HIV.

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HIV AIDS, Pakistan
A patient is seen in a ward at the state-run Lavra clinic, Ukraine's main HIV treatment center, in Kyiv. VOA

More than 130,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV last year in Eastern Europe, the highest rate ever for the region, while the number of new cases in Western Europe declined, global public health experts said on Wednesday.

European Union and European Economic Area countries saw a reduction in 2017 rates, mainly driven by a 20 percent drop since 2015 among men who have sex with men. That left Europe’s overall increasing trend less steep than previously.

All told, almost 160,000 people were diagnosed in Europe with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, according to data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional office for Europe.

HIV, AIDS
A man walks past a banner tied on a bus before the start of a charity walk on HIV/AIDS at the Ebute Mata district in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, April 21, 2012. (VOA)

“It’s hard to talk about good news in the face of another year of unacceptably high numbers of people infected with HIV,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab, director of the WHO regional office.

Calling on governments and health officials to recognize the seriousness of the situation, she urged them: “Scale up your response now.”

The United Nations AIDS agency UNAIDS warned in July that complacency was starting to stall the fight against the global epidemic, with the pace of progress not matching what is needed.

Some 37 million people worldwide are infected with HIV.

AIDS, Indonesia, HIV
Students with their faces painted with messages pose during an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign to mark the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, in Chandigarh, India, May 20, 2018. (VOA)

The WHO’s European Region is made up of 53 countries with a combined population of nearly 900 million. Around 508 million of those live in the 28 member states of the European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

The joint report said one reason for the persistence of HIV in Europe is that many people infected with the virus are diagnosed late, meaning they are more likely to have already passed it on and are also at an advanced stage of infection.

It also found that in the European region, men suffer disproportionately from HIV, with 70 percent of new HIV cases diagnosed in 2017 occurring in men.

Also Read: Experts Warn About The Return of AIDS Epidemic

Since the start of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, more than 77 million people worldwide have become infected with HIV.

Almost half of them – 35.4 million – have died of AIDS. (VOA)