Why it pays to be independent

Digital Sovereignty

Businessleute mit Tablet
  • Article
  • 5 Minute Read
  • 23 Jun 2023

Digital Sovereignty is on everyone’s lips. But what does it actually mean to be digitally sovereign? Why is it so important to focus on independence in digitalisation? And how can companies set the right course?
In short, Digital Sovereignty describes the ability of states, companies and individuals to act and develop independently and self-determinedly in the digital world.

However, putting this into practice is easier said than done. To reap the benefits of Digital Sovereignty, organisations must overcome a number of hurdles. There are now various approaches to making Digital Sovereignty tangible and measurable. However, the first step for companies and public institutions is to recognise the importance of Digital Sovereignty and develop their own strategy based on this insight.

The most important in 30 seconds

  • Digital Sovereignty means that organisations are not dependent on individual digital players or countries, but can negotiate fair prices and conditions, reduce non-public interfaces and data formats, and use state-of-the-art technologies.
  • Those who are digitally sovereign secure competitive advantages, promote innovation and reduce their dependence on individual providers and resources.
  • Open Source Software (OSS) is a central element and an important prerequisite for strengthening Digital Sovereignty.
  • Legislators at (inter)national level have recognised the importance of OSS for Digital Sovereignty and promote its use.
  • PwC supports organisations on the path to Digital Sovereignty. The central key is an individual strategy; there is no universal plan.

Your expert for questions

Marcel Scholze
Head of Open Source Software Management Services at PwC Germany
Tel: +49 69 9585-1746

On the road to Digital Sovereignty

In the course of the digital transformation, the pace of innovation is constantly increasing and a new dynamic is emerging. Increasing global networking brings many advantages, but with it also grows more complex dependency structures and the resulting risks. Lock-in effects, failure risks, knowledge silos and secure data management are just a few of the many hurdles that companies have to overcome when implementing digital projects.

“Digital Sovereignty is a multidimensional process, not just a goal that companies can simply achieve and tick off.”

Marcel Scholze, Director at PwC Germany for Open Source Software Management, Compliance, Security

Why it pays to be digitally sovereign

Those who retain sovereignty over their own digital assets such as data, infrastructure and know-how achieve decisive (competitive) advantages. This applies not only to companies, but also to the public sector, which thus ensures independence and security. Digital Sovereignty also promotes innovation through the secure and sustainable handling of technologies, data and resources, thus enabling the development of solutions that are geared to the respective national requirements.

In the course of this, Digital Sovereignty strengthens digital education and competence. Knowledge silos are broken down, and workers are strategically trained and retained for the longer term. This in turn reduces national dependence on foreign providers of technologies and resources.

However, sovereignty must not be confused with economic autarky. Rather, digital independence strengthens international cooperation by leveraging exchanges between organisations to jointly develop technologies and digital standards.

Why is it so difficult to be digitally sovereign?

The global political and economic events of recent years have shown the consequences of a lack of sovereignty and the creation of dependencies. But why is it still so difficult to be digitally sovereign? Sovereign and autonomous action in the digital space does not work by simply implementing a universal set of measures. Rather, it first requires the ability to recognise one’s own needs and opportunities in order to derive individual measures from them.

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Open Source as a catalyst for Digital Sovereignty

Open Source Software (OSS) is a key element and prerequisite for strengthening Digital Sovereignty. The Open Source character of software makes it possible to work independently and autonomously on solutions and to adapt them as best as possible to one’s own needs. This avoids lock-in effects and expands the company’s own technical know-how. In conjunction with increasing collaboration in the OSS ecosystem, efficiency and innovation gains can be achieved in the long term. These in turn contribute to the progress of the digital transformation and enable the sustainable realisation of Digital Sovereignty.

Legislation promotes and regulates the use of OSS

Not only business, but also politics has recognised the importance of OSS for Digital Sovereignty. Accordingly, legislators in Germany, Europe and worldwide are promoting their use. For example, strengthening Digital Sovereignty is enshrined in the current German Government’s coalition agreement.

However, in order to take advantage of OSS, suitable management systems are required. The standards ISO /IEC 5230 and ISO /IEC DIS 18974 are a milestone: they specify the measures required to use OSS securely and in compliance with regulations. At the European level, the explicit consideration of Open Source in the Cyber Resilience Act and the Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA) shows that legislators are increasingly focusing on managing and reducing the cybersecurity risks of OSS.

PwC supports you on the path to Digital Sovereignty

Those who want to achieve Digital Sovereignty must define an individual strategy and targeted measures. However, identifying your own need to catch up is technically and legally complex. PwC’s experts support you in this task. In the first step, we determine your status quo. On this basis, we develop an individual strategy for your Digital Sovereignty. We also support you in defining and implementing concrete action measures. With our comprehensive expertise in Open Source, IT sourcing and Multi-Vendor Management, we accompany you in the corresponding projects and take the necessary steps on the path to Digital Sovereignty together with you.

“Many organisations lack direction and structure when it comes to strengthening the digital agency. However, there is no universal plan for Digital Sovereignty. Rather, individual strategies are required.”

Marcel Scholze, Director at PwC Germany for Open Source Software Management, Compliance, Security
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Marcel Scholze

Marcel Scholze

Director Open Source Software Services & IT Sourcing, PwC Germany

Tel: +49 151 16157049