Global approaches to digital sovereignty: Competing definitions and contrasting policy
There are many approaches to digital sovereignty, which have deepened geopolitical competition between the US, China and the EU. Zooming in on data governance and digital industrial policy, Melody Musoni, Poorva Karkare, Chloe Teevan and Ennatu Domingo explore how the EU can support effective cooperation and mutually beneficial partnerships with the Global South.
There is little consensus on what digital sovereignty means. This results in different interpretations and policy implications. The different approaches to digital sovereignty have deepened geopolitical competition between the US, China and the EU.
In data governance, the US, home to leading big tech companies, prefers open data transfers. China strictly controls what data comes in and goes out of its territory while the EU‘s data protection laws put individual rights and privacy front and centre. We look at the impacts of the contrasting approaches of these major digital powers on developing countries as they seek a model of digital sovereignty that suits their political interests and development needs.
Major powers have taken similar lines in digital industrial policy, but there are significant differences in approaches and motivations. Defence and military spending was critical in propelling the US to its leading position in digital technologies by enabling investments in research and development into several critical digital innovations. China instead was motivated by the need to have domestic champions. The EU on the other hand focused on competition issues, slowly adopting industrial policies to create key European tech players. India carved a niche through its digital public infrastructure.
In this report, we look at these two interrelated policy areas, namely data governance policies and frameworks and industrial policies with ramifications for digital sovereignty. We assess the policy implications for the EU and provide recommendations to support effective cooperation and mutually beneficial partnerships with the Global South.
Shorter digests of each chapter are available below.
Executive summaryRead the executive summary
Setting the sceneRead the setting the scene chapter
Chapter 1: Unpacking digital sovereignty through data governanceRead chapter one
Chapter 2: Unpacking digital sovereignty through industrial policyRead chapter two
Chapter 3: Integrating digital sovereignty in EU external actionRead chapter three
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