WITH the Internet and other communication technologies, it is possible now for people to live in any country of their choice without travelling there. The United Arab Emirates, UAE, is one of the countries harnessing this emerging virtual citizenship.
Recently, it announced the availability of a residence permit for remote workers in UAE and the approval of a multiple-entry pathway tourist system for people of all nationalities. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Emirati Vice President and Prime Minister, made the announcement via his Twitter handle.
He explained that the introduction of the new residency permit means that “any employee anywhere in the world can reside in the UAE to practise work remotely, even if the company is not present in the country”. Virtual citizenship and stay, an evolutionary streak of the global village predicted by Marshal McLuhan, has been ongoing even before the UAE latched on to it.
Accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic which threw up the necessity for people across the globe to communicate through virtual platforms like Zoom, we saw, for instance, people in different parts of the world virtually living in the grip of the tussle between former President Donald Trump and his Democratic counterpart, Joe Biden. It is also part of the much-talked about globalisation, driven by advancement in communication technology.
But it appears the world is yet to make up its mind on whether to go the full hog or not in this journey, given the protectionist tendencies of a number of countries and world leaders, especially in Eastern Europe and Asia. We commend the UAE for burnishing this policy which encourages workers employed around the world to relocate virtually to Dubai, and also for relaxing some of its stringent laws for foreigners.
This is an innovation which has attracted more foreigners to the Gulf country and boosted its tourism industry. The advantages of this emerging virtual citizenship and stay are many. It will reduce air travels which account for a large chunk of the climatedamaging carbon emissions. It will also reduce air mishaps. Money saved from flying across the world could be invested into other human endeavours more beneficial to mankind.
Nigeria stands to gain a lot by tapping into the emerging globalised citizenship idea. Our huge and economically-robust Diaspora elements can further be harnessed for our development beyond the over $20bn they remit to our economy annually. With one of our own, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala now leading world trade, we can leverage on this new global resource to expand our economy with minimum overhead which goes into physical travels. The opportunity has now come for Minister Isa Ali Pantami to prove his point in convincing President Muhammadu Buhari to add “Digital Economy” to the name of Federal Ministry of Communications.