The rise of the digital nomad

The coronavirus pandemic has plunged the world into a transient twilight, suspended between the agony of a pre-COVID existence and the invisible emergence of a post-coronavirus era.

But already noticeable in the twilight of this new world is a changing geopolitical landscape.

For centuries, nomads have been viewed as an existential threat to the integrity of the modern state. Image: Wikimedia

In recent years, especially in the past 12 months, several countries around the world – from Iceland to Mauritius, Croatia to the Bahamas, Malta to Dubai and many more – have introduced the job. remote and digital nomadic visas to attract a digital roaming community. workers.

This is a community that is expected to grow exponentially as the global pandemic continues to detach workers from offices and cubicles around the world.

Beyond this radical change in traditional working practices, an equally significant development began to emerge in the international geopolitical order.

For centuries, nomads have been viewed as an existential threat to the integrity of the modern state and its monopoly over the control, order, and containment of citizens.

Beyond local, regional and national loyalties, the nomads were attributed with immoral intent and a challenge to state power that operated over demarcated and bordered communities. Without an address to their name, the rootless nomads were not so easy to control.

But the introduction of these new visas helps to revalue and reinterpret the nomad from enemy to friend in modernity: from feared and excluded figures, to a new class of nomadic capital which is invited with open arms.

What we are seeing is a shift in attitude towards mobile people and a change in policy that challenges the traditional exclusion of nomadic people – well, at least some type of nomad.

In 2021, digital nomadism has become a reality and a way of life. Image: Getty Images

While COVID-19 has put remote working in the spotlight for the past 18 months, remote working has been around for years – at least for a lucky segment of business travelers and a small, but growing, group of people. digital nomads.

For these (mostly) tech-savvy millennials from the North, traveling the world while working online has been a reality for over a decade.

In 1997, tech visionaries Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners predicted a future where computer technology and the proliferation of Wi-Fi would take workers away from their desks. This would allow them, for the first time since the Agricultural Revolution over 10,000 years ago, to indulge in humanity’s natural propensity to wander and wander.

In this mobile, technology-mediated future, they argued, people would form “tribes” or communities based on shared goals, interests and values ​​in different pockets of the world. This would mean that people would no longer base their identity or stake their loyalty on where they came from or where they were born.

As a result, nationalism and the nation-state would lose their relevance in a world of unfettered global mobility, and countries would compete against each other to attract these shifting workers and the income, capital, and taxes they bring – Or almost. they quarreled.

Fast forward to 2021 and digital nomadism has become a reality and a way of life. In the United States alone, more than 10 million people identify as digital nomads, and by 2035 that number is expected to reach one billion globally – and that was before COVID-19.

In the United States alone, more than 10 million people identify as digital nomads. Image: Getty Images

But it is only in recent years that several nation states, like Georgia and Estonia, have started to position themselves as welcoming destinations for nomads in order to attract these new types of nomads. And many other countries have since followed suit, urged to step up action due to the pandemic.

As businesses around the world responded to imperatives of social distancing and isolation by turning to the cloud and moving their operations online, millions of newly posted workers were suddenly free to work where they wanted.

As a result, economies traditionally dependent on tourism, such as Barbados, were faced with a difficult choice: to adapt or decline.

Seeking to capitalize on this newly detached global workforce and offset losses from a declining tourism sector, many countries – like Greece – are now presenting themselves as nomadic digital hotspots (with tax advantages) and not just as a place to go on vacation.

In doing so, these nation states and their new digital nomadic / remote work visas reverse long-standing exclusionary practices towards nomads – albeit with a focus on economically, socially and politically privileged groups of people. .

Indeed, nomads are no longer seen exclusively as threats to be avoided, but, seen through the prism of economic rationalism, they are now a highly prized commodity and appear to continue to be so good in our post-COVID future.

Banner: Getty Images

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