Wednesday, 02 December 2020

Deciphering Digital Sovereignty

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Thursday 29 October 20

Speaking at a keynote session at yesterday’s Total Telecom Congress, speakers from major European telecoms associations came together to discuss the term 'digital sovereignty' and what it means for Europe on the world stage

The telecoms world is inundated with complex terminology and technical acronyms, but rarely has the industry produced a term as ambiguous and contentious as ‘digital sovereignty’. The scope of this term extends far beyond the telecoms sector itself, being deeply intertwined with both the geopolitical climate as well as the global economy.   For Luc Hindryckx, Director General at the European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA), digital sovereignty is a multifaceted issue which has been evolving in Europe over recent years, but has seen a flurry of interest in 2020 due to two key factors…

The telecoms world is inundated with complex terminology and technical acronyms, but rarely has the industry produced a term as ambiguous and contentious as ‘digital sovereignty’. The scope of this term extends far beyond the telecoms sector itself, being deeply intertwined with both the geopolitical climate as well as the global economy.

 

For Luc Hindryckx, Director General at the European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA), digital sovereignty is a multifaceted issue which has been evolving in Europe over recent years, but has seen a flurry of interest in 2020 due to two key factors.

 

“One very important element is the geopolitical dimension – the trade fight between the US and China. We are really seeing very serious consequences for the supply chain in our sector,” said Hindryckx. “Another major element is one that we all know and that has been seen a real wake-up call for Europe – the COVID pandemic. It has made Europeans understand that we are part of a global economy and what it means to be in a global supply chain.”

 

For the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO)’s Director of Public Policy, Paolo Grassia, the term itself is problematic and should instead be replaced by a more suitable and productive title.

 

“Digital sovereignty has become such a contested topic because it is associated with protectionism,” he said. “I think this is a mischaracterisation, certainly from an ETNO perspective – we prefer to talk about digital leadership.”