Bitnation starts offering blockchain public notary service to Estonian e-Residents

Starting today, the Estonian government, in partnership with the world’s first Blockchain powered virtual country, Bitnation, will start offering a public notary service to their e-residents, using the Bitcoin blockchain.

Brave New Coin spoke with Bitnation founder Suzanne Tarkowski Tempelhof, who shared details about this landmark project as she was getting ready to facilitate several inaugural events that will take place today.

- Suzanne Tarkowski Tempelhof, Bitnation CEO


Tarkowski Tempelhof explained that the partnership emerged when “one of the Bitnation Ambassadors who’ve been engaged in both efforts insisted that we talked.” Soon both parties realized they had a lot of common ground in their shared belief of “providing non-geographically contingent governance services on an open and competitive market.” Tarkowski Tempelhof explained that the Estonian government “understands the dynamics of the globalization era far better than any other government.”

The Republic of Estonia, nicknamed e-Estonia, is already a testing ground for companies such as the exchange and clearinghouse operator Nasdaq, which announced last month that it had plans to develop several blockchain applications, including a solution for proxy voting.

The tiny European country appears to be a sound choice, as it’s well known for adopting technology. It was the first to offer public Wifi to its’ citizens, back in 2001, and is the birthplace of Skype. The country already offers a variety of e-programs, having added e-Residency in late in 2014.

- e-Residency, e-Estonia

One of Bitnation’s primary goals is to provide the same services as traditional governments, from dispute resolution and insurance to security and much more. The difference is that Bitnation's services are geographically unbound, decentralized, and completely voluntary. There are no taxes to be a Bitnation citizen, only fees for the services you choose to use, which you can select a-la-carte.

The project was started in July 2014, and just last month Tarkowski Tempelhof and her team responded to Europe’s dire refugee crisis with a separate program, the Bitnation Refugee Emergency Response (BRER). This interesting initiative attempts to help refugees with direct assistance,  by issuing blockchain-proven identity cards and VISA debit cards with pre-loaded bitcoins.

The cards are a perfect fit for refugees. While they can effortlessly accept donations from anyone in the world, through their Bitcoin public address, they can also spend the funds effortlessly on the VISA network.

Tarkowski Tempelhof provided an updated status of Bitnation’s refugee assistance efforts, stating that the first batch of 100 VISA cards was sent out, with the expectation that another 1000 will be sent by the end of the year. “A couple of hundred people have created emergency IDs, and we’re talking with UN agencies to get the IDs endorsed so they carry more weight when moving around in Europe,” she added.

- Tarkowski Tempelhof

With the help of Bitnation, Estonia’s e-residents will now be able to notarize their marriages, birth certificates, business contracts, and much more, from anywhere in the world.

Tarkowski Tempelhof states emphatically that the team wants to improve the Notary service as quickly as possible, and are working hard to add more features, contract templates, and tailored applications for different types of contracts. “Once we’ve done that, we can start looking into other applications,” she added. “One that comes to mind immediately is p2p insurance.”

The service is free “for the moment,” Tarkowski Tempelhof explained, thanks to generous donations from their partners at Horizon and MaWo, and will cost e-residents as little as US$2 in the future.

The release of the public notary program coincides with the one year anniversary of the Estonian e-Residency Program. For this historic celebration, for both Estonia and Bitnation, there will be a Google Hangout at 3pm GMT that premieres a demo of the notary, and explains how it works with the e-Residency ID.

As if that was not enough cutting-edge blockchain tech on display, a couple will get married during the hangout as well, forever imprinting proof of their wedding on the blockchain as part of the ceremony. Everyone is welcome to attend.

-  Tarkowski Tempelhof

Edwine MayelThe couple getting married in front of witnesses, and under the auspices of Bitnation and e-Estonia, go by the names Edwrne and Mayel. They are self-proclaimed glomads and were both born in the Basque Country, an unofficial country with moving borders that extends over several different European countries’ geographical area. The couple has moved from place to place ‘their entire lives,’ which makes decentralized governance services a good fit for them.

- Edwrne and Mayel

However, couples getting married using just a public notary are not recognized in the jurisdiction of Estonia, nor in any other nation states’ jurisdiction. Instead, they get married in the blockchains jurisdiction. Blockchain technology provides a worldwide proof of existence, and integrity for contractual agreements, including marriages, all without tying them to any country or location.

Similarly, Estonia's e-Residency also has limitations. It does not give citizenship, tax residency, nor the right of entry to Estonia or to the European Union. The e-resident digi-ID is not a physical identification nor a travel document, and it does not display a photo.

eIDThe Estonian government recognizes the limitations of its e-Residency program, and is trying to improve upon it. “Currently e-residents applying for an Estonian bank account have to come to Estonia and have a ‘face-to-face’ meeting with a bank official,” states the programs documentation. “However, hopefully within the next year e-residents will be able to apply for a bank account the same way they take advantage of other Estonian services: digitally.”

Nevertheless, the eIDs and services on offer are built on state of the art technological solutions, such as 2048-bit public key encryption, and the e-Residency program already has over 6,700 applications from 120 countries, with more than 500 companies connected to e-residents, all while still in beta phase.

- e-Estonia

Just as Estonia's e-Residency places no limitation of where a resident lives, Bitnation places no restrictions on where in the world you are from, where you live, nor what passport you hold. Their motto is that everyone has the right to enjoy high-end, competitive, governance services.

- Kaspar Korjus, e-Residency Program Director

Estonia also understands that a digital identity itself does not inherently bring with it new risks, such as money laundering. Instead, the country recognizes that digital footprints are more easily traced, which makes existing risks more visible and manageable. According to Bitnation, this same concept is true with the blockchain. “The distributed and immutable nature of this public notary makes it more secure than any notary currently offered by traditional nation states.”

Combining Estonia’s e-Residency program with Bitnation’s notary and VISA card services is a groundbreaking combination that is simply unprecedented in the history of refugee assistance. Now anyone, anywhere, that wants these important services, no matter if they are impoverished refugees or the Prime Minister of Japan, can get them online, and for a while at least, completely free.