Digital sovereignty or, as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen calls it, technological sovereignty, is the buzz phrase of the moment in Europe. What does it actually mean, and how could Huawei contribute?
Detlef Eckert is Vice President of Global Government Affairs at Huawei.
Digital sovereignty needs to be understood on various levels. Firstly, it refers to decision-making independently of political pressure from other world regions and players. Secondly, it is synonymous with developing European alternatives to key digital infrastructure and platforms which are typically US dominated: just think of hyper-scale cloud providers, operating systems or social media.
We at Huawei are excited about this programme for making Europe fit for the Digital Age. It rightly puts a high priority on investing in the digital technologies that are key for the future and will be a critical factor in ensuring its technological sovereignty. Such technologies include AI, blockchain, high performance and quantum computing, cloud, and tools to allow data sharing and usage. We look forward to contributing to this agenda.
Huawei’s idea of how to contribute to this objective goes beyond mere investments (which of course it includes as well). We want to help Europe to own essential technologies, which can be thought of as building blocks, and to define standards for these technologies so that they can become the global norm. Huawei is not interested in owning or transferring data outside of Europe; it does not monetise data, but provides enabling technology.
Transferring Huawei technology to Europe
Huawei is willing to share and transfer technology to enable Europe to build its new digital sovereignty. Just three examples of this:
- Kunpeng 920, the industry’s highest performing ARM-based server CPU to date, which can underpin Europe’s efforts in the field of high-performance computing;
- Ascend, a powerful AIprocessor that can support Europe’s burgeoning AI facilities;
- Harmony OS, which might become an alternative mobile operating system that could help Europe develop its own multi-party, independent mobile eco-system.
Huawei has grown in Europe over the past two decades from an initial handful of employees at its first research centre in Stockholm, opened in 2000, to employing today more than 13,000 people at 25 research centres and regional offices in over 30 European countries. Furthermore, a report Huawei commissioned from Oxford Economics shows that, in 2018, nearly 170,000 jobs were dependent on Huawei’s purchasing in the supply chain. And, in the future, Huawei intends to increasingly innovate, build and procure in Europe.
Doing things the European way
Digital sovereignty is closely connected to Europe’s plans to reach its technological potential and achieve leadership. It needs to forge progress the European way, as a global leader of strong, open and fair trade, while respecting high privacy, security and ethical standards for its citizens.