Digital sovereignty – from users’ empowerment to technological leadership – PL 02 2020
The session will discuss how the different facets of Digital Sovereignty, at the individual level and at the macro-level, can be reconciled to shape Europe’ technological leadership.
Digital sovereignty can be defined as the ability to ensure citizens’ control over their digital lives, in particular through the control of their personal data. It also refers to the capacity to reinforce the digital “capacities” of a country, in terms of its networks, cyber-security capabilities, and control of advanced technologies like A.I. The session will discuss the different aspects of digital sovereignty and how they can be reconciled to support the digital transformation of Europe and its technological leadership without compromising on democracy, openness and fundamental rights.
Moderated panel discussion
Main questions to be addressed during the sessions:
1. With its advanced regulatory framework, is Europe doing better than other regions of the world in protecting end-users’ digital sovereignty, in terms for example of controlling their personal data, managing their digital identity, or exercising their digital “self-determination”?
2. Beyond regulation, how can we bring the technology angle in the picture and develop (in Europe) the technologies that increase end-users’ digital sovereignty? How can we best articulate technology development with our norms and values and make it a competitive advantage for Europe?
3. What digital infrastructures (e.g. 5G, IoT, Cloud, data, AI, but also core internet infrastructures like the DNS) do we need to ensure our sovereignty, both at individual level (protecting personal data) and at industrial level? What policy measures are needed to increase our sovereignty in terms of digital infrastructures? What role for cooperation between public and private actors?
4. How to combine a sovereignty approach to the global nature of the internet and digital technologies? How can we be sovereign and at the same time remain open and engage in global digital cooperation? Or is sovereignty necessarily leading to the balkanisation of the internet?
- ENISA (2017), "Principles and Opportunities for a Renewed EU Cybersecurity Strategy. ENISA's Contribution to the Strategy Review"
- Posch, Reinhard (2017), "Digital Sovereignty and IT-Security for a Prosperous Society", in Informatics
in the Future. Proceedings of the 11th European Computer Science Summit (ECSS 2015), Vienna, October 2015, ed. by Hannes Werthner, Frank van Harmelen
- "Promoting Digital Self-Determination" (Paper by the Swiss network “Digital Self-Determination”): https://eurodigwiki.org/mw/images/e/e9/Dig_Self_Determination_EN.pdf
- Valentina Scialpi
Organising Team (Org Team) List them here as they sign up.
- Vittorio Bertola
- Andrew Campling
- Lucien Castex
- Sofia Badari
- Debora Cerro Fernandez
- Riccardo Nanni
- Livia Walpen
- Giacomo Mazzone
- 1. Kerstin Noelle Vokinger (Academia);
- 2. Steven Tas (Private sector);
- 3. Francesca Bria (Public institution);
- 4. Pierre Bonis (Technical community)
Olivier Bringer, Head of Unit, Next Generation Internet, DG CONNECT, European Commission
Trained remote moderators will be assigned on the spot by the EuroDIG secretariat to each session.
- Katarina Andjelkovic, Geneva Internet Platform
- The EU is at the frontline when it comes to enabling the digital sovereignty of individuals due to its legal, ethical, and basic values that were in place before the digital era. However, it is crucial that the EU takes more action than before in order to retain its leading role in the topics around digital sovereignty.
- The real foundation of digital sovereignty is digital infrastructure, as shown by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is therefore key for the EU to focus on investments in telecommunication infrastructure, reflect on its regulatory frameworks and its actions, and further raise its voice at international fora.
- To ensure a thorough approach in regard to the digital economy, the EU needs to also have a strong position on software, not only on infrastructure. The assurances that we have the knowledge and competences to build something, to understand what is underlying, and to innovate are key.
- The EU’s large companies need to be much more active in acquiring and using innovation founded by the region’s SMEs and startups and linking that with the extremely important work of universities and research centers.
Find an independent report of the session from the Geneva Internet Platform Digital Watch Observatory at https://dig.watch/resources/digital-sovereignty-users-empowerment-technological-leadership.
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>> NADIA TJAHJA: Hello, everyone, and I’m very excited to announce the next session, which has all of our involvement into this, but before we get started, hello from Studio Hague. If you’re just tuning in my name is Nadia and I’m your studio host and joined in the studio by our remote moderator that you have been seeing in the keynote and who will be there to support you with all the issues with content and answering your questions.
Before we get started, I would like to go over the Code of Conduct. EuroDIG is about dialogue, and it’s your contribution to your thoughts and ideas and questions that make these sessions inspiring and engaging, so we hope that you will choose to actively participate in these virtual sessions.
Now that you have joined the studio, you’ll be able to see your name in the Participant’s list. I ask you to make sure you have your full name displayed so we know exactly who we’re talking to. You can set this up by looking at your name, clicking on more, and choose to rename yourself.
When you enter the room, you were muted and this is to prevent feedback that could disturb the session. So please raise your hand if you have a question and we will unmute you. When you interact turn on your video because it would be great to see who we’re having a discussion with, and let us know your name and affiliation.
Now I would like to introduce the moderator of Digital Sovereignty – from user empowerment to technological, the head of next generation Internet from DG CONNECT at the European Commission. Olivier, you have the floor.
>> OLIVIER BRINGER: Okay. I muted myself, and so I hope you can hear me now. Thank you very much, Nadia. Yes, so I will be moderating this second plenary of EuroDIG on digital sovereignty, and it’s a very interesting topic because we will go from digital sovereignty at the individual level, questions around control of personal data, electronic identity, self‑sovereignty, to the macro level, so how to ensure based on individual sovereignty and based on our values and autonomy at the European level?
And so, I have a panel of four distinguished speakers that I will introduce in a moment; but first of all, I wanted to explain a bit of how the panel is going to be structured. So, it will be a fully moderated panel and I will ask some questions and we’ll try to have a dynamic and lively discussion among the panelists. That will be the first part. In the second part we’ll open the floor to questions from the audience, so please make comments, ask questions in the Mentimeter, and also, you will have the opportunity to take the floor and ask your questions directly.
At the end of the session, we will have a reporter from the Geneva Internet Platform who will report about the main messages of the platform and who will try to find consensus on those messages.
So, if you allow me, I would like first to introduce our four panelists, so we have Kerstin Noelle Vokinger, Professor and also Associate at well‑known Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, so she’s conducting interdisciplinary research while she focuses on questions at the intersection of technologies, for example, how to regulate technology or how technology can serve a society respecting individual’s rights.
As a second panelist, we have Steven Tas, who leads the Regulatory Department. Proximus is one of the leading telecommunication providers in Belgium, whose also coverage at the international level, and Steven is the Chairman of ETNO the Association of Telecom Computer Operators and also quite involved in GSMA in the Policy Group of GSMA.
We have with us as well Francesca Bria, who is the President of the Italian National Innovation Fund and Francesca is also Honorary Professor in the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose at the UCL in London, and she’s Senior Advisor to the United Nations on Digital Cities and Digital Rights. You might have known also Francesca in her previous job as Chief Digital Technology and Innovation Officer of the CTF, Barcelona, where she experienced and implemented a number of projects on data sovereignty, and in particular, the funded decode project.
The fourth speaker is Pierre Bonis, is in the Internet and domain names for the last 15 years, first in the French Administration and since 2012 the Deputy Director General of AFNIC, a specialist in international cooperation issues and Member of the Board of Directors of CENTR the European Association of National Domain Name Registries, and he’s also Chairman since last year of the ccNSO Internet Governance Committee in ICANN.
So, as you can see, it’s a panel with different profiles, different perspectives, so I’m sure we’ll have a very interesting discussion.
So, without further ado, I would like to ask the first question to the panelists, which is really a fire starter, and that also is in continuity of some of the questions and answers that we had in the previous session with Pearse, and so I would like to ask the panelists, with this advanced regulatory framework, would you say that Europe is doing better than other regions of the world in terms of managing end user’s digital sovereignty, and that is in terms of controlling their personal data, managing the digital identity, or exercising their digital self‑determination?
And maybe to start I would like to – I would like to have the views of Kerstin on this question.
>> KERSIN VOKINGE: Digital sovereignty is still in development, but for the time my answer is still, yes. I believe Europe is doing better than other regions and my answer is based on legal, ethical, and technological considerations as well as basic values that form our European Society, and so with regard to the legal aspects, the constitutions in the European countries as well as the data protection laws protect individual rights and give individuals the power to exercise their self‑determination rights, and even though, for example, the Swiss Constitution doesn’t have an explicit fundamental right for digital determination, we did not have to reinvent the wheel because the constitutional principles and fundamental rights make it clear that self‑determination is also crucial in the incidental digital sphere and the same is true for digital exploitation laws and across other countries like the U.S. And furthermore in Europe we have ethical principles and basic values relevant for digital self‑determination, such as for example, transparency and trust, control and self‑determined data sharing, user‑oriented data spaces, and currently quite a big topic in general we prioritize decentralized data over centralized data, and all of these values that are much older than digitalization are strong incentives to enable and guarantee digital sovereignty of individuals in Europe.
And let me give you one very recent example that also our keynote speech gave. The pandemic, COVID‑19, is the first global digital pandemic and the COVID tracing app developed by the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology applies just legal described as it called legal and basic values.
What I believe is that Europe is at the frontline when enabling digital sovereignty of individuals due to our legal, ethical, and basic values that we have already prior to the era of digitalization. However, it is very crucial that Europe takes action, more action to date, more action than to date if we like to take a leading role in the topics around digital sovereignty, and this is not limited to interactions but rather as the keynote speaker pointed out, countries should take action actively, not only within their borders but across Europe, and in this regard, I would like to point out to the Swiss Network, digital self‑determination and this network includes representatives from the Swiss Federal Administration, academia, Civil Society, and private sector, and among other things, assessed questions of how to enable and secure digital self‑determination of individuals, and this network also provides a summary on our Wiki website of this session under the section for the reading, and if you should have any questions in this regard, please feel also free to contact me. Thank you.
>> OLIVIER BRINGER: Thank you. Can you hear me? Okay. I’m sorry. Thanks a lot, Kerstin, for this perspective, and thanks also for giving the interesting, the Swiss perspective but also the perspective of what happened during the COVID‑19 crisis.
Do other panelists want to chip in on this point and I know, for example, that Francesca, you have also been working quite a lot in Italy on the tracing app and you might also have a specific perspective there?
>> FRANCHESCA BRIA: Sure. Thank you very much. It’s a great pleasure to be here with you, and I think this is very timely and really an important question that we’re all discussing, so I’m very pleased to have this conversation.
Let me do some maybe general remark first and then getting into the question a bit more in depth. I just want to emphasize two things. Obviously, we are living a shock which has been a health shock and also at the moment an economic and social shock of proportions that we have not seen before in peace times, so we are all really called to think differently, to come out of this crisis in a new way, and as also the previous speaker, emphasize to really restart, putting at the very center, the questions about our sustainable green and digital future much more strongly.
So, I think I first want to say that really during there crisis, also sharing my experience here in Italy, we are seeing maybe a forced digitalization of proportions that, obviously, we have not seen before also. And I think what is most impressive for me is that digitalization is entering, finally, daily life of people and sector of society that go really beyond the kind of expert technical community, and obviously that we see in these kind of events.
We, you know, in particular, online education and smart working – smart working for public administrations, small companies, big companies, online delivery, our digital life transformed and I think we’re seeing nation‑states really trying to cope with this, and I think we have to be very careful that on one side to structurally use this change to put the solid foundation for what we want to see happening in the future and at the same time, we have to be very careful not to create more inequality and to have part of the population lagging behind.
And I think this would be a big challenge in our EU Next Generation recovery plan in the future as strategies that Europe is offering, and we have to be very ready as communities to take on these challenges and to respond.
Let me also say that I think the question of digital sovereignty in this context is obviously two folded for me. On one side, I think we see more strongly the importance of national sovereignty and European national sovereignty in a sense of we understand that digital sovereignty also means political and industrial sovereignty, and we understand that this touches European competitiveness, the question of welfare, the question of national security, but also the foundation of our future industries, so it really touches, you know, from healthcare to education to transportation, to AgriTech and to all the more important sector of societies, and this is obviously for us, I mean, the challenge is to combine the new strategy of Europe, the new deal and putting digital transition at the very center.
On the other side, as Kerstin really fantastically explained before, it also is about citizen’s digital sovereignty, and so it also means how do we make sure that we devote more power to the citizens and citizens are able to participate in the shaping of this digital society, and also offering a perspective for what it means to shape infrastructures that will determine our daily life and how we organize society in the future.
In this sense I think obviously the European approach of data sovereignty for instance or giving back democratic control to people and citizens, in particular, about their data but also about their digital infrastructures can be very competitive in the future. And I mean, we have Olivier here coordinating the panel that initiated next‑generation Internet program that really put privacy security decentralization at the very core of what this digital future can look like, and so I hope that the next generation Internet would be very important within the next generation Europe, obviously, framework.
And just to finalize my first intervention, regarding the contact‑raising application, I think that we saw a very interesting moment there because, actually, first of all, contact tracing and making it digital can be an absolutely critical help to the healthcare territorial systems, and so at the moment, we’re basically experimenting how these notification applications can really help the healthcare national system to function in a smoother way, to function better in a more integrated way, and in particular, we also are hiring new manual contact tracers in order to improve the system generally.
And the fact that we ended up with a solution that is decentralized, it is Open Source, and so the code is visible, it has been really a contribution came from the European technical community, and I want to say that the infrastructure that was chosen also by Apple and Google as the foundation of the contact‑tracing application that we use today was in the first place designed by European consortium of our really top privacy and technology experts and cybersecurity experts, and the fact that decentralized, privacy and rights for technology with minimal use of data have been also judged by the big tech players, the best possible infrastructures to on one side, you know, be better in stopping the transmission of the virus, but on the other side, also, protecting our rights and privacy and I think not only it’s probably a victory of actually the European system in this sense and our fantastic privacy researchers, but also can help our health system to use this kind of methods and these kind of technologies in the future. So also, we can learn from these applications that obviously has a very emergency healthcare reason, but also to then make it more resilient and in the future to try to use this kind of decentralized and privacy technologies for more of the things that we will need in the future.
>> OLIVIER BRINGER: Thanks a lot, Francesca, and that’s a very interesting example how we’ve been able to move from clear principle, clear value protecting individuals’ privacy and implementing decentralized system and security inclusion to concrete technology development with these tracing apps. Of course, now the challenge will be to have them adopted by the population. But that’s a nice – that’s a nice link to my second question, which is more on the technology side, so beyond regulation, how do you think we can bring the technology angle into the picture and develop in Europe the technologies that will increase end user sovereignty, and how can we best articulate technology development with our norms and our values, and in the end make it a competitive advantage for Europe? And maybe there I can ask Steven if he has views on these aspects, in particular, given his industry profile.
>> STEVEN TAS: Thank you, Olivier. I hope you can hear me.
>> OLIVIER BRINGER: Yes, very well.
>> STEVEN TAS: Okay. Well in terms of digital sovereignty from a telecom industry perspective, it will not come as a surprise that we believe that the real foundation of digital sovereignty is digital infrastructure, so already for more than 30 years and so the voice of the European telecommunication industry and also the current crisis in which we are today has really demonstrated and it has been said by the speakers before, and so has shown how much being able to rely on excellent infrastructure is essential for a society, and it’s really a moment of crisis that this comes to the surface.
So, looking forward to, I think, what is really key is that we put a lot of focus on investments in telecommunication infrastructure. It’s the basic layer of digital infrastructure is, of course, networks, so it’s about the investing in 5G networks, it’s accelerating the developments of 5G that Kerstin has referred to, and we’re very pleased to see that the European Commission is also in the recovery plan and putting a lot of focus on connectivity, and also the willingness to put public funds is very positive. But we, of course, as the private sector also believe that the prime focus should be on unleashing the potential of private money, and we talk a lot about European regulation and what are they conducive simulating development of new networks and technology and what are the answers to protecting European values. I think we should have a permanent reflection in Europe on this and make sure that the regulatory sets that we’re using are indeed the most effective ones in order to for investments and innovation and I think we have plenty of examples where I think we have taken leadership in the world, and the speakers have referred to the world in terms of data protection, and I think Europe has clearly shown the way to the rest of the world to what they’re doing,.
But I think very honest, there are also areas where sometimes Europe has made things maybe needlessly complex and had very complicated regulatory framework and sometimes even counterproductive and not in the particular interest of people, so I think it’s a critical review from time to time on how we’re doing things which is key because if you look at the digital leadership, we must also be honest that it has been slipped to our regions of the world so there is a lot of work, hard work in Europe to make sure that we take leadership.
So for me, it’s a discussion about vision that’s important, what is our vision for the future, but it’s also very much about concrete actions we take, hard work, referring to 5G and a lot of potential that’s ahead of us, but at the same time we’re faced with a lot of hurdles in Europe to roll out 5G. There is a lot of debate around disinformation around 5G so we need to tackle that and address it, and a lot of operators in Europe are still having difficulties to acquire radio spectrum, which is so essential for rolling out mobile networks, so let’s focus on that and let’s make sure that there will be even further harmonized spectrum that is in Europe. And I think the other which is part of this foundation of digital sovereignty is, of course, everything which is related to data, and data is really the intersection between artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, and 5G networks.
And there I think we need – we have a big potential for Europe to innovate. Of we might have lost a bit, the potential for private data, but there is still a lot of potential I think in industrial data, and one of the interesting examples I think to follow is to see what is happening around the GiaX approach in Europe and I think a lot of people know about this, and I think it shows really how we should pursue the industrial leadership in Europe around data, and this is about an open mobile and it’s not about protection. It’s a model which is open for all players, all international players, but structure around global values in order to create a trustable environment, and so that’s I think an important dimension to work on those concrete initiatives and to make concrete progress.
And then the third one is, I think it’s even further raising our voice at the international fora, referring to the whole discussions around the Internet governance, and I think the multistakeholder model is a very important one which we fully support, but I think still we ask Europeans, maybe we’re notes participating actively enough in those fora, and I think we need to reflect on how we can even put more resources in these fora, so those are the three elements which I think I see from a telecommunication sector perspective as key elements in the progress for reinforcing our digital sovereignty.
>> OLIVIER BRINGER: Thank you, Steven, and I think it’s very stressing that you bring this question of digital infrastructure. It’s very important to have the digital infrastructure that you spoke about, 5G, but there is also and you mentioned it Cloud and data infrastructure. If we want to ensure our sovereignty both at the individual level but also at the industrial level, and here I’m sure that Pierre will want to intervene who has been involved in the management of the core infrastructure of the Internet, the DNS. What is your specific share on the role of the infrastructure and technologies to promote our sovereignty?
>> PIERRE BONIS: Thank you very much, Olivier. Can you hear me all? I hope. Thank you. Thank you very much to give me this opportunity to participate to this session and hello, everyone. First of all, because we have talked before about sovereignty and the individual approach to it, and being if had line I think with the last speaker, I would say that I will talk about sovereignty in the sense, the classical sense where it applies to a territory or a community more than to an individual. I would say the classical political definition of sovereignty.
In France, we say that sovereignty relies in the nation, whether you don’t know it, the nation is a geographical part or the community of the French people, but it’s the nation. And that’s why it’s important to talk about infrastructure because infrastructure usually, they have a geographical background, an infrastructure is not virtual, and so at one point you will be – you will have cables, wires, computers, servers, even database. They are physical in one way, and they are put somewhere, and these terms, I think this is the European approach and I think most of the European country’s approach is a good one. We have to make sure that we are able to manage all the critical parts of the Internet infrastructure ourselves, which doesn’t mean that we have to use European Internet that will be closed to others, of course. But that means that when it comes to data and when it comes to exchanges between users, and when it’s on the European soil, it’s important to make sure that in a way or another, because the companies are European, because they’re regulated by European government so you could – European Commission, and because the investments are European, because the competences are European, we know how it works, we have the knowledge of the function of this infrastructure and maybe we own it.
And I think this is a very nice way to see Internet as a thing and to say when we talk about sovereignty and we talk about Internet, it’s just like one thing to close the borders and this is not the case at all. I mean, there is no position between trying to have some power in the good sense of it, I mean, some knowledge on the tools we use. It’s not a new position with being open to the rest of the world, and having said that, of course, this is the case of the DNS, this is the case for domain name, and that’s why, for instance, in the European directive NIS, registries of top people domain at the national level has been pointed out as essential services operator, along with the big telecos, along with more obvious digital players, and so this is something that I think European Commission sees very well and I think we still have some work to do on that.
I don’t want to be too long on that but I just want to stress out one point also is that having the competence and the knowledge on all the parts that makes the digital economy, means also that we have to make sure that we are able to have a strong position also on software, not only on infrastructure, and that this strong position is not only a position that can be acquired by regulation and protection of the consumer.
For instance, maybe the European Commission is strong enough to impose the GDPR to Facebook, but it’s still Facebook. So in a way, it’s not sovereign from a European point of view. So, there is also something to say about our ability to build on the current competencies that we have in Europe, and this part is more to me on the innovation R&D part of the European policies, and I will end with that. I don’t think that we have to wait to have capitalization at the level of Google or Facebook to be, hey, we’re sovereign now. The importance is not the amount of money that we could invest, it’s the assurance that we have the knowledge and competences to build something, to understand what is underlying, and maybe to innovate. Thank you.
>> OLIVIER BRINGER: Thank you very much, Pierre, and thanks to bring, indeed, the need to invest the importance of research and innovation, which is exactly, I think, what the President of the Commission last week has tried to convey with this Next Generation EU and the new budget.
But here I would like to go back maybe to Francesca because I think it’s quite interesting to have the point of view of someone who is heading a sovereign fund in terms of, okay, what can be or how can we regain the autonomy or sovereignty through funding, and also, have your view on the what is it exactly sovereignty? Because you have in the past, in your past job you have been very much involved into self‑sovereignty, and now it’s much more around, I guess, national sovereignty and so I would be interested to have your view on that.
>> FRANCHESCA BRIA: Yes, so I agree with what has been said, but I wouldn’t underplay the need of European investment in, obviously, science, technology, research, and innovation.
So I think if we look at the data, it’s very obvious that we still have a lot to do. I think that Europe is now really with the new commission program, making much more clear its ambition in the digital age. I favor very much decoupling of the industrial strategy with the green deal and the digital strategy, which of course, involves a very big part about the data strategy, but also how the entire innovation mission has been restructured in Europe.
So, even if we look – and I mean I don’t want to go into obvious data, but I think it’s important to remind even during this pandemic, I think one of the most striking issues here is that see a lot of companies in critical industrial sectors in Europe, motor vehicle, tooling, culture and so on having real troubles in terms of credit, liquidity, unemployment, and so on, but we see a big spike of the actual value of the shares of the big tech companies, and so they have actually augmented their valuation in the market and I think their price of their stock is sky rocketing, and so obviously here there is a part of the economy that is winning and a part of the economy that is losing, and Europe really needs to kind of take these as an opportunity to make a giant leap, and even if we look at innovation investment, so now Italy, for instance, has created a new sovereign – well, a venture capital fund on the like same kind of strategy that BP France has been carrying forward, investment into private venture capital to enlarge the market. And, I mean, we see that Europe has 190 unicorns but they’re much undercapitalized as compared to U.S. companies, obviously. And I mean in Italy, we’re still investing very little in the entire SMEs in the ecosystem. I have to welcome, actually, the work that the European Innovation Council is doing in that report, and in fact, we are aligning our strategy with the Fay – with the investment, the European Investment Bank and European Investment Fund and with the sovereign facility, we’re going to align the strategy to invest more money in the innovation ecosystem to support technology transfer, to support the network of incubator and accelerators, and to support the really working of SMEs and startup with corporate venture capital. I think we need our big companies to be much more active in acquiring and using innovation coming from our SMEs and startups and then linking that with the extremely important work that we’re doing in research and investment and science when it comes to our universities and research centers.
So, really, what is policing is this entire innovation ecosystem where we’re starting to leverage focusing on our key industrial sectors, and so I think we need a qualitative evolution of our ecosystem and maybe it’s not only invest the, but let’s think it’s really expensive today to compete with that kind of concentration of market power so I think we will see again a coming up of questions around antitrust and around consolidation of market power in the digital space, and I think that we have to be able to use our competitive advantage there to maybe break some monopolies where needed, but also to foster the group of the made‑in‑Europe industrial ecosystem in the digital space, and so just that I want to finish on this note and I think that for me.
The question of individual sovereignty is, I think, also a question of collective sovereignty because the approach of Europe on this issue has always been about collective rights to data, information, self‑determination, and enlarging our capacity as citizens to take back democratic control of our data; and so actually, it is much more about the creation of public value and public goods, and so using data and unleashing that data to create more public value while preserving personal privacy and, you know, the individual sovereignty, and so I think we can combine very easily in this approach, the question of territorial collective and national sovereignty with the question of empowering citizens and empowering society in the use of data and digital technology. And so I mean, I see it as a fundamental pillar, I think that if Europe is going to be able to make data a public good and really giving back control and sovereignty back to citizen, I think it’s going to, I mean, help us to tackle the fundamental societal, urban, and environmental and social challenges that we’re facing. I think that also this pandemic shows us very clearly that we need to mobilize these assets and these power for the collective good and for the public interest.
>> OLIVIER BRINGER: Thanks a lot, Francesca. It’s a good point you make at the individual at the sovereign level and level through data and so data as a public good is the link between the two, and to make it a reality, we need to work collectively. So, I would have a lot of other questions myself, but I think it’s now time to open the floor to questions from the audience and I’ve seen that the chat is quite active with a lot of very interesting comments. Auke, maybe you want to share with us two or three questions.
>> AUKE PALS: Yeah. Sure. Thank you for your interesting comments, and the first question is regarding the first part of the session and it was about that don’t you think that European countries have to either accept Google and Apple’s rules for Bluetooth‑based COVID‑19 contact tracing or can be barred from accessing useful hardware capabilities? The example for really sovereign online?
>> OLIVIER BRINGER: Thank you. Maybe Kerstin or Francesca, do you want to reply to that since you have been involved in these discussions on in particular on tracing apps?
>> FRANCHESCA BRIA: I don’t know about Kerstin, and maybe I’m not sure I understood completely; actually, can you summarize the question? I mean, do we have to accept what exactly?
>> AUKE PALS: Francesca, I’ve also put the question in the chat for you, so you can take a look.
>> FRANCHESCA BRIA: Okay. Well, I don’t know. My – I think that we reached a very – well, on the question of the contact tracing app, I think we are, actually as I said before, got to a very good point. I mean, we are using an infrastructure and an approach that allow for the health authorities to act and to get information about to alert people and to use this technology to, basically, speed up the manual contact tracing and at the same time, we do that in a very noninvasive way, privacy preserving because the data is kept in a decentralized way. It is kept on the mobile phone of the users, and there is – it’s public, there are public applications controlled by public authority, national authorities, and it is using a public infrastructure. So, of course, we rely on the companies that have – well, that have the dominance in the mobile sector operating system, and so this is nothing new.
Maybe we can see in the long term, obviously, we understand that platform power, obviously, is something that is very important to take into account and that we want to have more control over as we all said here as speakers over the Cloud, the data, the mobile operating system, the hardware, the sheet, the artificial intelligence, and I mean all the speakers, the connectivity, and so all of the speakers have expressed, I think, in very clear terms the need, obviously, as a strategic long‑term objective to regain democratic control over this critical infrastructures, but as it comes, I mean I think as they are, the contact tracing application, we can say clearly to the population that as we said before, we really hope that people use it because we need a strong user jump in this technology to be effective that their privacy is preserved, that their data is kept secure, and that we’re using actually, a system that puts security, privacy, and the rights of the citizens at the very core. And so I’m pretty sure that at the end, it is what we are doing is the best possible solution.
>> KERSIN VOKINGE: Thank you very much, Francesca. I totally agree with what you said and maybe just to add one or two further points. And so, I think the tracing app was a very nice example where we could see that if European countries work together and come up with a very good solution. I think this was a very innovative approach, and not just, you know, talking about a problem but to actually try and fix it and to come up with an actual solution and then if we work together, the different countries, and not only the countries but also the different stakeholders. And so you think about the researchers working together with the other actors that we have here, and that actually then Google and Apple can even be willing to also accept our rules and to accept our privacy principles that we have, around so I actually think that this is an example that shows that we have to play their rules necessarily, but if we work together, Europe together, that they’re also willing to accept some of our rules.
>> OLIVIER BRINGER: Yes. Thanks to both of you, and I think that’s a very interesting question and reply because in a way, we have certainly inspired privacy and secure tracing app systems and at the same time it’s true that we have to rely on the vendors of most smartphones in Europe and so that asks the question, how can we make sure that in 10 years’ time there are alternatives, and how can we now prepare for those alternatives? Invest so that you have European Open Source alternatives to mobile systems provided by two large American companies to date. Just I shouldn’t do that because I’m the moderator, but just a thought. Okay.
>> FRANCHESCA BRIA: You know, I absolutely agree with what you said; and so again, I guess we can say that this is a matter of industrial strategy then so if we have this mission and it’s in the long term, then we have to direct our strategy in a way that we can get there.
>> AUKE PALS: Yes, Olivier, there are also more questions. There was also a question that says platforms have power in the fact of establishing norms online. Can the fact that the EU has no Silicon Valley of its own prevent it from establishing its user‑centered conception of digital sovereignty?
>> OLIVIER BRINGER: Maybe that’s a question for Steven or Pierre of having a place where we can develop technologies of very advanced digital technologies. Is it missing in Europe? Do we need to do more to create it?
>> STEVEN TAS: I already referred to the initiative, one of the initiatives where we try to find the European way starting from European value. But of course, at the same time in the previous discussion, there is also administration of that, and I think it’s administration of that that we still have a lot of work ahead of us. And so it’s not going to be a walk in the park to become a meaningful global player in this digital world, but I think the foundations we do have them in Europe, we have very smart people in Europe, we have very strong values to build on, and so it’s a matter of – but it’s still a matter of very hard work with a lot of talk about what sovereignty actually is, but I think in essence, it’s really about making yourself more resilient, having a better and a stronger economy, stronger foundations, and by doing that we will have even a more meaningful role in the world and we will even be listened to more than maybe is the case today, and we’ll also have a stronger dialogue with people – with larger companies like Apple and Google, and that will come with that if we build our capabilities, become stronger, we will of course be listened to even more than we are already listened to. So it’s a matter – it’s also a matter about self‑confidence and I think it was Kirsten who said this in the beginning that sometimes we talk ourselves down and let’s be a little more confident, let’s be confident, but also at the same time critical of what we do and be very agile in daring to review certain approach. If they don’t work, we should be prepared to change them. If a certain rule has worked for the past 10 years, it isn’t necessarily the right rule for the next 10 years ahead, and sometimes our institutional system in Europe is a rather slow one and complex one in order to modify and so that’s also something that we need to work on.
But, in fact, sovereignty is clearly not something – it’s not about isolating ourselves or excluding others, and so it’s just about becoming stronger ourselves and investing in our capabilities.
>> AUKE PALS: Thanks a lot, Steven, for your answer. Maybe we have time for one more question, and that’s that the everyday Internet user does not know who governs the Internet and how, and how does it impact users’ digital sovereignty? But most important, what can the EU do to enhance governance transparency?
>> OLIVIER BRINGER: Maybe that is a question for Pierre who is very involved in Internet governance, particularly in ICANN.
>> PIERRE BONIS: Thank you very much, and just to say that before that I fully subscribe to what Steven said to the previous question. Once again, we need to – we don’t need to be the leaders, but we need to have the tools to become the leaders, so we have to invest and we don’t have to jump to other solutions.
I think a lot of people around this room are especially interested in Internet governance, and so they will agree with me, I think, that no one governs the Internet, hopefully.
And when we talk about the Internet governance, we are talking about a system, we are talking about a way of trying to bring together different stakeholders, and when we talk about the Internet governance, we try to make sure that any system of decision – any decision‑making system will respect the necessity to have a strong and reliable, underlying technical layer.
In other words, we could say that the Internet governance, it’s the seeking of letting the techies do their job without denying the government being responsible.
So, or letting the scientists do their job without saying that the take has invented everything already. So, the purpose of the Internet governance is to make sure that no one governs the Internet, but it’s the conjecture of various interests that will make in a way not the general interest, but the condition of possibility of the general interest.
This is the first part. The second part is very, very, very quickly that when we talked about sovereignty, some companies have huge power about on the Internet and huge power on the users. Doesn’t mean that they govern the Internet, but it means that they are landlords, very powerful people, and that in fact, their decision impacts the Internet. We have these examples a long time ago with – at this time it was Microsoft that was designated as the big, ugly company, and wanted to make their own startups out of W3C and now it’s other companies, and some companies have a lot of power.
And the idea of making sure that these companies or these private interests will not govern the Internet is not relying on the Internet governance itself, but it’s relying on the capacity, from my point of view, from each of the stakeholders to have the tools to make their own decision and to build their own solutions. So, if they are not happy with what is the majority of the offer today, they will build another offer tomorrow and this is exactly the definition to me of sovereignty. Thank you.
>> OLIVIER BRINGER: Thank you very much, Pierre, and I took note of some of your – some of your suggestions, especially the one that Internet governance is making sure that no one governs the Internet. I hope I can quote you on that.
So, I think we could, you know, at the end of a good panel, you feel a bit unsatisfied because you realize that you have covered only 10% or half of the questions, which is I think the case today. But we have to – we have to close this panel with the final step, which is that we will have our Reporter, Katarina who will share with us the main messages. Katarina, please.
>> KATRINA: I’m a Geneva internal platform reporter. I would like you to know that the messages are not final and they’ll be available for additional comments and EuroDIG will provide more details on that.
So to begin, my first message would be that the EU is at the frontline when it comes to enabling digital sovereignty of individual due to legal, ethical, and values in place before the digital era; however, it’s crucial that Europe takes more action than before in order to retain the leading role in the topics around digital sovereignty.
If there is any strong objection to this message, please write in the chat or otherwise we’ll consider there is a rough consensus on this message.
And just give me a sign if I should continue with the next message, please.
>> OLIVIER BRINGER: Yes, please.
>> KATRINA: Thank you. The second is the real foundation of sovereignty is the digital infrastructure as shown by the COVID‑19 pandemic, and it’s therefore key for the EU to put a lot of investments in and reflect in regulatory framework and further raise the voice at the international fora.
The third message is having competencies and knowledge on all aspects of digital economy means also that the EU needs to have a strong position on software not only on infrastructure and the assurance that we have the knowledge and competence is to build something, to under what is underlined and innovate is key.
And the final message is the following. Europe’s big companies need to be much more active in acquiring and using innovations coming from the region SMEs and startups and then linking that with the extremely important work of universities and research centers, and that will be all from my end and I wish you all good evening.
>> OLIVIER BRINGER: Thank you very much. I think we can, unless there is a big disagreement, we can agree that there is a rough consensus on those messages. And so I would like to thank very much all four panelists for bringing your perspective. This is, of course, a conversation that can be continued, will be continued. And also took place in the chat, there was a completely parallel discussion, and so thanks a lot, thanks to lot to the audience for following us, and have a nice – have a nice evening after this first day of the first virtual EuroDIG. Thank you very much.
>> Thank you.
>> Thanks a lot to you.
>> NADIA TJAHJA: And, also, thank you for moderating the session, Olivier, it was a really inspiring session to see how we can work further. So, we have come to the end of a very long day and I was wondering whether or not EuroDIG Headquarters, are you there?
>> SANDRA HOFEICHTER: Yes, Nadia, we are here. Nadia and Auke, nice to see you again.
>> NADIA TJAHJA: Hello.
>> SANDRA HOFEICHTER: You still look very fresh. Is that the monitor or how do you feel after the first day?
>> NADIA TJAHJA: High‑quality equipment. (Laughing).
>> SANDRA HOFEICHTER: Okay. That was a good answer. Indeed, it was a long day and we started early, we finished in time. And also, thanks to you and to the commitment of our speakers and moderators. I think it was an intense day for everyone, and basically, we would appreciate if every one of you could let us know if you have ideas of what to do in the breaks and how to get a little bit of movement.
I was thinking about if I do some exercise with you, some sports or something like this, but well I’m not the most sportiest person so maybe we should think about something else, karaoke or whatever, and so we would be thankful if you leave just your comments maybe in the forum or send it to EuroDIG office what you think could be done in the breaks in case that we have to live with such online meetings for the next weeks, months to go, and I hope not for years.
But, definitely, we hope that we brought remote participation as such, a big step further with the first day, and I’m looking very much forward to the next day of tomorrow, and we will start here in time in Studio Hague with you Nadia and Auke, and we will start at 9:30 a.m., and we will open the rooms at 9:00, 30 minutes in advance. Thank you very much and everyone, have a nice evening.
>> AUKE PALS: Thank you. Bye‑bye. See you tomorrow.