Importance of digital sovereignty

We have become too dependent on non-European countries in almost all digital areas. To reduce this dependence, we must increase our influence on the design and application of digital technologies. TNO sees opportunities for increasing the digital sovereignty of the Netherlands and the EU in order to strengthen our international competitiveness.

Digital technologies such as 5G, cloud data storage and connectivity, are all having a major impact on how our society and economy function. For example, these technologies enabled many of us to work from home in during the COVID-19 pandemic, which allowed many sectors to remain operational. We have become accustomed to products and services that can be ordered online with just a few clicks on our smartphone. Production processes have become much more efficient in the digital world, which has resulted in cost savings.

No less than 92% of Western data is hosted in the US, with only 4% being hosted in Europe.

Dependence creates vulnerability

These are all serious advantages, but they also have a clear downside. Digital technology makes us dependent on Big Tech and 'hyperscalers', large-scale online market players and platforms which frequently do not have privacy and consumer interests at heart. For example, no less than 92% of Western data is hosted in the US, with only 4% being hosted in Europe. The largest part of this digital infrastructure is provided by non-European parties. And there isn’t a single European company among the top 20 global tech brands.

Furthermore, an increasing dependence on digital technology leaves us vulnerable to parties with malicious intentions. Just think of ransomware attacks and cyber threats in times of conflict, such as is happening in Ukraine. Moreover, the digital technologies in the Netherlands and Europe have become too dependent on other countries, sometimes upholding different values and standards.

Opportunities in data sharing

We can increase our digital sovereignty in the Netherlands and Europe by investing in the development of federated cloud solutions and decentralised data infrastructures together with corresponding business models that facilitate data sovereignty. This will allow us to organise data sharing according to European standards and regulations. For the development of a secure data-sharing infrastructure, TNO is actively involved in initiatives such as Gaia-X (see box) and International Data Spaces (IDS).

Embracing digitisation

TNO believes in the opportunities that the digital society offers to put the Netherlands and Europe on the world map of digital domains.

Think of zero loss logistics processes, better disease diagnostics, and new, personalised treatment methods in healthcare. Or a government which embraces digitisation and uses it in a targeted way to meet social challenges.

Want to know more?

Download our paper on digital sovereignty

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