The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a massive disruption in global economies – forcing us to change, to think of new ways of surviving the challenges, and most importantly, to act quickly. The global crisis, while creating unimaginable havoc across the world, also ended up generating a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rebuild better economies. In all of this, technology played and continues to play a game-changing role in enabling businesses and lives to adapt to the new normal.
Today, the international business supply chains have been weakened due to the pandemic and are relying heavily on digitization as the key enabler for growth . A robust and reliable digital infrastructure is critical for the continued and consistent working of essential industries such as banking and finance, healthcare, education, and many more. Seamless and uninterrupted connectivity, the democratization of digitization to empower the masses, development of advanced technologies like 5G networks, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and big data have become priorities for nations across the globe.
This gives rise to certain vital questions that each country needs to address – do we develop/produce the technologies we need? If not, are these technologies accessible from single or multiple sources? What would be the impact on the economic development if these technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, and cloud computing become inaccessible? In short, each country needs to ask if it has Tech Sovereignty?
Decoding Tech Sovereignty
Wikipedia defines ‘Technological Sovereignty’ as a political outlook that information and communications infrastructure and technology are aligned to the laws, needs and interests of a country in which the user is located.
In simpler terms, ‘Technological Sovereignty’ can be explained as the right and capacity by citizens and democratic institutions to make self-determined choices on technology and innovation. This makes it an absolute necessity for real equality in the technological era.
Quest for Tech Sovereignty in the Post-pandemic Era
Most countries across Europe and Asia-Pacific are currently heavily reliant on technologies that come from beyond their borders, though the individual country governments want to change this. As a result, since the beginning of the pandemic, Europe’s pursuit to gain ‘tech sovereignty’ has become a viral phenomenon across the world. From vaccine development to artificial intelligence, billions of euros are now being mobilized across the European Union, and the rhetoric has gone out of control. French President Emmanuel Macron recently said, “If we don’t build our own champions in all areas — digital, artificial intelligence, our choices will be dictated by others.”
India too has been ramping up its efforts to attain ‘tech sovereignty’. In a recent development, the Indian Government made its stand clear that there would be no compromise on the nation’s digital or tech integrity and any foreign company operating in India would have to abide by the laws of the land.
Roadmap to Achieve Tech Sovereignty
Organizations around the world are now prioritizing their tech or digital sovereignty to stay ahead of the competition. It is important for them to have a roadmap or a set framework that they can follow to achieve digital sovereignty of developing/using/sharing technological solutions. Here I have tried to encapsulate a 4-step framework:
- Identifying strengths and weaknesses: Highlighting the current and prospective digital and technological strengths and strategic weaknesses of the organization must be the beginning of the process
- Open-source software: It will provide users with the flexibility to have control over their data and reliance on the software
- Evaluation framework: To ensure that digital technology remains in line with their country’s specific ideals of delivering social, economic, and scientific goals and objectives
- Choose the right data center: This is the most vital aspect for an organization as this is where the most crucial and proprietary assets of a company are stored. So, to ensure uninterrupted continuity of the daily operations, choosing the most secure and reliable data center is definitely a top priority in achieving tech sovereignty
Challenges in achieving Tech Sovereignty
Connectivity across borders has become the norm of the day and with the pandemic-induced change in life and workstyles across the world, nothing in our lives is left untouched by digital technology.
Tech Sovereignty will have a major impact on the growth potential of industries & ultimately the global economy. The intensity of the impact will depend on the innovation potential of a country as it aims for Tech Sovereignty.
However, the vast amount of data is a huge challenge in achieving digital autonomy. Are the nations ready to handle the copious amount of data? Do we have the correct digital infrastructure in place to host all the data? Do we have enough regulations and laws in place to ensure the safety of this data?
India took a recent step in this direction. In an attempt to accelerate and safeguard the process, Niti Aayog moved to create an independent regulator for consumer data, especially as India is poised to take a giant leap toward becoming a USD 5 trillion economy by 2025 – much of which will rely on digital technology either directly or indirectly.
The Road ahead!
Going forward, Tech Sovereignty will have a major impact on the growth potential of industries and ultimately the global economy. It may be antonymous to creating a futuristic, ‘technology transfer and sharing’ business infrastructure, it will undoubtedly be the main influence in economic development. The intensity of the impact it will have will depend on the innovation potential of a country . The way forward will essentially be paved by the growing digital and technological capabilities of countries as they aim for Tech Sovereignty.