Simon Anholt, the person who allegedly came up with the phrase ‘nation branding’, recently launched another index besides the Nation Brand Index, to list countries based on their actions in international arena, the Good Country Index. Moreover, Anholt had said that the reason for this was that it is actually impossible to brand a nation, and therefore it is not right to list them based on this. Yet one has to wonder, is it really impossible to brand a nation, or is it impossible just in the case big countries that are known around the world. There are examples when nation branding has actually worked and changed the idea that people have about certain countries. Estonia might be a good example of that.
Estonia was often seen as a post-communist country in Eastern Europe that does not really have anything to offer to citizens and governments from developed, Western countries. This view is quite outdated though, because by many people, today Estonia is seen as highly developed country that provides some of the most advanced ideas and ways for online governance and IT services in the digital era.
For example, European Agency for the Operational Management and large-scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (eu-LISA) headquarters are located in Estonia because of the country’s advanced info technological knowledge and background. The decision by the EU member states to set eu-LISA headquarters up in Estonia shows that the country is seen by other member states as capable of providing secure IT services for different European Union institutions.
The real surprise is that more countries have yet to build similar systems of their own. – Leonid Bershidsky
Moreover, as Estonia has been using online-voting during elections since 2005, today it is “the only country in the world that relies on Internet voting in a significant way for legally-binding national elections – up to 25% of voters cast their ballots online”. Estonia has made the system quite secure, with different procedures and resources needed, such as national ID-cards, digital ID or mobile ID, in order to cast a vote. The system has been so successful that the country has been brought up as an example for others to follow by The Telegraph and BBC. Furthermore, not only are Estonians known for voting online, but they also file taxes, use banking systems or receive a medical prescription online.
Vabariigi Valimiskomisjon, Statistics about Internet Voting in Estonia
In addition to this, in 2014 Estonia launched its e-residency programme that provides “state-issued secure digital identity for non-residents that allows digital authentication and the digital signing of documents”. The programme has many benefits, including signing documents online and providing digital authentication which means that it is possible for e-residents to run businesses or every-day errands from anywhere in the world. The programme has already prove to be a success, with the first e-resident being journalist Edward Lucas, and the highest ranking e-resident so far being Japanese Prime Minister. Moreover, many different news outlets, such as The Guardian, The Register, and ZDNet, have described the programme and mentioned its many benefits and future outlook that will possibly benefit the country and set yet another example for others on how to improve their digital services.
Edward Lucas’ Estonian e-residency ID card.
That being said, it is important to keep in mind that nation branding does not happen overnight. But to say that it is absolutely impossible is, in my opinion, wrong. There are other examples of this being possible and Estonia is yet another one. While previously having been seen as a developing post-communist country, it now has a reputation of one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world. And all this because of the work Estonian public and private sector have done together in order to prove the country’s image. As a nation-branding case, Estonia is an example for others, both in proving that it is possible to brand a nation and its advanced ways of doing so.
Ask an Estonian about e-government, and almost anyone will proudly pull out their chip ID-card and offer a demonstration. That should be every government’s dream. – Leonid Bershidsky
 eu-LISA, „Who We Are“, http://www.eulisa.europa.eu/AboutUs/WhoWeAre/Pages/default.aspx