What’s digital sovereignty, how does open source contributions to it, and how will it affect our future?


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Digital Sovereignty is a key concern for the 21st century, especially for Europe. Open source has a major role to play in enabling digital sovereignty, by allowing everyone to access the necessary technology, but also by providing the governance transparency and interoperability necessary for those solutions to succeed. In today’s episode of OpenInfra Live, Johan Christenson, CEO of CityNetwork, hosts a discussion around the role of open source in digital sovereignty between Pierre Gronlier, CTO of Gaia-X, Kurt Garloff, CTO at Sovereign Cloud Stack, and Linda Siwe, Chief Commercial Officer at Binero.

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What is digital sovereignty?

After a brief introduction from all the speakers, Christenson asked the speakers what digital sovereignty meant to each of them. 

Garloff mentions that there are two main aspects to digital sovereignty. There is the aspect of data and the role it plays in today’s IT world and secondly when building systems to support this data you must have the ability to change those systems according to your needs. Garloff finishes off with “digital sovereignty is the ability to have control over the data and the infrastructure systems that deal with the data”.

Siwe focused on Garloff’s concept of control in digital sovereignty. For Siwe digital sovereignty is “about being in full control”. She elaborates that similar to the OpenInfra Foundation’s model, “control through collaboration is key to achieving digital sovereignty”.

Gronlier expounds beyond digital sovereignty just applying to the control of data by defining it as “the ability to have the choice and choose what choice you want”. For Gronlier, this applies not only to data but infrastructure and licenses as well. 

How does globalization affect digital sovereignty?

Christenson followed up the previous conversation with a question about if the speakers believed digital sovereignty can exist in such a globalized world. 

For Siwe this is where the concept of collaboration comes in. In the IT world collaboration has been implemented from day one, but the ability to work collaboratively needs to be “formalized out into the broader society in terms of politics, regulations, etc,” says Siwe.

How does your work relate to digital sovereignty?

Going off of Siwe’s point about the importance of collaboration, Garloff says” one great way of collaborating across borders across the world is to use open source software”. This is where Sovereign Cloud Stack comes in. “Operating a cloud container, infrastructure stack is this difficult task to do. And if you want to do that, you need to build a significant team that has all those skills…and we’re trying to kind of organize that network”.

Siwe mentions that while the customers of Binero, a public cloud provider, are not directly concerned with digital sovereignty, the “awareness is increasing, especially connected to recent cybersecurity attacks and ransomware…”So I think that’s why it’s so important for us as a provider to be the ones taking that responsibility because we’re providing them with the services, we have to make sure that we think about it”.

Gronlier shares a brief description of Gaia-X then goes on to describe different ways of achieving digital sovereignty through autonomy with open source or interoperability. To be able to “migrate [your] workload to another place….that’s a way to gain digital sovereignty without open source”.

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