President Kersti Kaljulaid gives first ever digital signature in Antarctica

President Kersti Kaljulaid aboard the Admiral Bellingshausen, in Antarctica, digitally signing the honors list.
President Kersti Kaljulaid aboard the Admiral Bellingshausen, in Antarctica, digitally signing the honors list. Source: Social Media

President Kersti Kaljulaid made, what is reported to be, the first-ever digital signature to have taken place in Antarctica on Tuesday.

The president has been in Antarctica for several days as part of festivities commemorating the 200th anniversary of the continent's first sighting. One of the leaders of the 1820 expedition hailed from the Estonian island of Saaremaa.

President Kaljulaid digitally signed the annual resolution which bestows state awards on individuals honored – traditionally announced at the end of January, and presented on independence day on February 24 – noting that Estonia's e-governance framework allows digital nomads to work literally anywhere in the world.

"Estonia has always been a seafaring nation, but now we are also a well-known digital nation," the president said, according to press release from her office.

"For a digital society, geography doesn't matter any more – we can use our digital IDs to do business, run a country and communicate with our close ones, wherever we are in the world," she added.

Estonian citizens hold a digital identity issued by the state, and can provide digital signatures using the national ID card, as well as via a mobile phone. The signatures have an equal legal footing with physical signatures, and are legally binding within the EU. Non-citizens who Estonian residency, as well as e-residents, can do the same.

The president is in the King George island area, off the northern tip of the continent, which has internet coverage, unlike the bulk of Antarctica (though bases and scientific stations operated by various countries have links set up in most cases).

The president joined the expedition early last week, via Chile. The trip aims to draw attention to the climate crisis, and to demonstrate opportunities offered by digital society and eGovernance, the president's office said.

The Admiral Bellingshausen expedition is organized in honor of the Estonian-born explorer Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, who was one of the first people to see Antarctica in 1820. The original expedition began on July 4, 1819 from Kronstadt, Russia and reached the Antarctic coast on January 27 or 28. This year's trip repeats the journey. The current expedition started last summer in Estonia; ERR's Priit "Wend" Kuusk served as a galley chef for much of the journey southward.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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