The majority of the digital infrastructures, platforms, applications and services used in this country come from companies that are based in the USA. But how can Europe free itself from this dependency? VNC names the basic requirements for digital sovereignty.
Digitization offers enormous economic and social opportunities, but Europe is dependent on the USA in many ways. The digital corporations there have long since achieved market power with which they can drive development in their favor and dictate the framework conditions. European companies, on the other hand, rarely make it and the European states find it difficult to enforce their rules and values - from data protection to interoperability. In order for Europe to become digitally sovereign and to be able to decide independently about the design and use of systems and applications as well as the use of the generated data, according to VNC, some decisive changes must be initiated:
1. Secure European infrastructure
Europe needs high-performance, highly available and secure data centers in order to break free from American dependency. An initiative for “concrete and sheet metal” that promotes the construction of new data centers or certifies existing ones according to European standards would be ideal. This infrastructure is then also the basis for a European cloud platform, because in the future it will no longer work without the cloud. Although the construction of data centers requires large investments, it is at the same time the technically least demanding step on the way to digital sovereignty.
2. An open source cloud platform
The next step has to be an open source cloud platform to offer an alternative to the hyperscalers. The technologies for this already exist, for example Kubernetes on operating systems such as Red Hat or Ubuntu. This would enable Europe to develop an equivalent, if not superior, cloud that is protected and certified according to European standards and that makes it easier to set up hybrid cloud environments.
3. An ecosystem of open source applications
Europe needs modern applications, or better: application suites that, thanks to open source, offer a high level of security and data protection and allow easy integration. Since there is no getting around the cloud, every application has to be cloud-enabled per se and run on different end devices in the browser without plug-ins. This software ecosystem naturally also includes platform technologies such as cloud databases and cloud storage. It would be perfect if the SaaS applications could also be operated in a protected instance for a single company, if desired – as a dedicated SaaS, so to speak.
4. Incentives for investment and sponsorship
In order to set up new data centers, develop cloud platforms and create an extensive software ecosystem, extensive investments are necessary. In addition to subsidy programs, tax breaks and better depreciation options provide an incentive for investments. In addition, sponsorships can help many young companies, for example by providing data center operators with infrastructure in return for their participation.
5. Attractive jobs
Europe needs highly attractive IT jobs in order to prevent the brain drain – the migration of the undoubtedly existing experts – and to get even more young people interested in IT professions. There are plenty of interesting tasks related to software development and DevOps, data center and infrastructure management, consulting and IT project management, but companies also have to say goodbye to antiquated management styles, support agile working methods and be more flexible, for example when working from home. A lot has happened here in the past few months, even if not always entirely voluntarily.
6. Equal opportunities
Europe can only achieve digital sovereignty if the preference for closed source ends and equal opportunities for open source are established. Currently, major orders are sometimes awarded to the big players in the software industry without a tender, which leads to pseudo-standards that are establishing themselves through great market power and increasing the dependency on individual providers. Europe needs transparent procurement with a free flow of communication instead of agreements behind closed doors. And why can’t authorities serve as a role model and generally rely on European or open source solutions? There are so many innovative European providers that are often ignored – incidentally, this also applies to funding, which mostly focuses on the top dogs and should be much more technology-agnostic with clear targets.
“The digital world is currently dominated by large American corporations, whose market power, despite the European efforts for digital sovereignty, is unbroken and is increasing – with every search, every purchase and every like,” explains Andrea Wörrlein, Managing Director of VNC in Berlin and member of the board of directors of VNC AG in Zug. “That will only change if Europe builds its own secure and trustworthy infrastructures and platforms with a high proportion of European technology and software. For this, however, the framework conditions have to be right and innovative, uncompromised solutions based on open source have to be strengthened – and maybe you shouldn’t get the US digital corporations on board for every initiative, from which you actually want to make yourself more independent. “