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Miriam Cisneros

The importance of Digital Sovereignty and how to achieve it through the Territorialization of Data

- Those countries that own large technology, infrastructure and data companies have the ability to achieve regional and global hegemony.

The importance of Digital Sovereignty and how to achieve it through the Territorialization of Data

"The decisive authority over the digital future rests with the people, their laws and their democratic institutions" (Zuboff, 2019, p. 60).

During the beginning of this century, a new type of colonialism arose throughout the planet, which is completely digital and is based on the monopolization of data on a global scale. This digital colonialism emerges from a new scenario where big data is used as the most valuable bargaining chip that is appropriated by the largest technology corporations such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft (GAFAM).

The use of data has expanded by leaps and bounds, being present not only in science and technology, but also gaining importance in foreign policy, diplomacy, industry, economy, military security and defense purposes, among others.

Currently, in the 21st century, the third revolution is taking place, which would be supported by digital, data and artificial intelligence. Those countries that are the owners of these large technology, infrastructure and data companies have hegemony at the regional and global level, but for many countries that do not have a national infrastructure, their sovereignty has been taken away in favor of that select group, who have control and know how to use that data to obtain benefits and gains in all spheres.

It is important to remember that there are four fundamental elements that make up States: population, territory, government and sovereignty. Giving up sovereignty is considered political, economic, security and defense suicide for countries not only in the local and national sphere but in their role as a geopolitical actor. For this reason, it is important to emphasize that pursuing and maintaining digital sovereignty must be a new primary objective for most of the world's nations.

This objective can be achieved through the territorialization of data through the construction of national telecommunications infrastructure and technology such as data centers, satellites and terrestrial and maritime cables.

All of the above allows countries to choose a new public policy model that pursues their autonomy and achieves digital and data sovereignty. Countries like Russia, China, Germany, Brazil, Canada, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Australia, India or Vietnam are just a few examples of countries that are implementing these policies.

During the last 30 years, various authors and experts have tried to define what digital sovereignty is. Reinhard Posch pointed out that "digital sovereignty is an endangered practice and the ability of the individual or society to have full knowledge and control over who can access their own data and where it is transferred" (Posch, 2017). .

The expert Pierre Bellanger explained that digital sovereignty "is the control of our present and our destiny as they manifest and guide through the use of technologies and computer networks... based on nationalism, capacity and freedom (Bellanger, 2011).

In addition to this, the Sophia Antipolis University of Nice also spoke out, providing its own definition of digital sovereignty, which is understood as the control and domain of the digital sphere by a single sovereign entity that establishes the rules of coexistence and the protocols for respect for human rights and data protection among technology companies involved in cyberspace (Sophia Antipolis University of Nice, 2016).

Therefore, according to the previous paragraphs, digital sovereignty is defined in five main aspects:

  • It is a new State domain
  • It is a strategy of technological power
  • It serves to have control and domination of the digital sphere.
  • Guarantees the data in national territory.
  • Endorses the principle of non-intervention in domestic affairs

The European Union is the only supranational organization that is pursuing digital sovereignty for its twenty-seven members. The central governments of Berlin, Brussels and Paris, are expressing their anger against the United States of America, since this country is the one that controls 92% of the data of the western world and the EU has been seen diminished with the invasion of its technology companies. For this reason, Emmanuel Macron said at a press conference "the battle we are waging is that of sovereignty... If we do not build our champions in all areas -digital, artificial intelligence- our decisions will be dictated by others" or Angela Merkel who spoke out against the digital, data and artificial intelligence dependency that controls Silicon Valley and the intervention of the United States in the digital economy (Propp, 2019).

The importance of data prevails due to the collection of different types of data, such as images, words, videos, audios, messages, telephone conversations, chats, banking transactions, internet browsing, emails and others, which are continuously generating and producing new information (Cattaruzza, 2019, pp. 40-41).

To summarize Cattaruzza's words, all the information that is created every second generates a large-scale inventory that is mostly found in cyberspace. For this reason, data is considered the most valuable currency in the world for governments, their ministries and their statistical agencies, as well as for technology companies.

Cyberspace is not only where people spend their free time looking for information or communicating through social networks. Cyberspace is a techno-political phenomenon and a geopolitical object where there are no laws or borders as it does not belong to any national territory. The only “laws” that exist are algorithms and cyber codes created by engineers in which the companies that control that digital domain are seen as unipotent entities.

There is an event that served as a watershed for many countries to become aware of cyberspace as one more sphere of the State and of their own sovereignty. This occurred in 2012 with the World Conference on International Communications in Dubai, in which three countries Saudi Arabia, China and Russia demanded the “sovereign right” of governments to regulate their national segment of the internet (Gueham, 2017, p.18).

If countries did not have the possibility to control their national segment of the Internet or to control the generation of mass data, all countries would live in a new colonialism.

Digital colonialism exists and began in the early 2000s, here colonialism implements two tools that are computing methods and Big Data (Couldry & Mejias, 2018, p. 1) to appropriate information and of the communication infrastructure. The result, a monopoly of power through economic domination by digital means, in which the big technology companies have imperialist control through a dependence on their technologies, software and IP (Propp, 2019).

According to the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act, the United States as the headquarters of GAFAM, Netflix, Airbnb, Twitter and Uber (NATU) has the power to compel all technology companies that ** share all data to the US Government regardless of the nationality of the data and/or your residence** (in relation to data centers and their clouds). This federal law affects all countries, since most nations require Silicon Valley to defend their security.

However, for these nations the great power that these two groups GAFAM and NATU have is a real threat to their national security since they do not have national infrastructure and can intervene in their domestic affairs, as already was currently seen with the highly controversial case of Cambridge Analytica, which manipulated the electorate through Facebook in favor of a political party and electoral candidate.

Due to these controversial situations, many countries have chosen to start developing new techniques, laws and public policies with the purpose of controlling cyberspace and the data that circulates on the network (Greenberg, 2016). This new paradigm shift occurred thanks to Edward Snowden's revelations about American cyber-espionage in foreign countries, related to his direct collaboration with Google and Facebook (Snowden, s.f.), thus becoming a vital pioneer in the creating a global awareness of the strategic importance of data in national security.

The territorialization of data is a counter-policy or reaction policy towards digital colonialism and foreign intervention. Currently, it is the best strategy that nations have, since it allows the appropriation, creation, use and final destination of data. the data that is generated in national territory with its population, its statistical agencies, its ministries, its industry, and its intelligence centers, in order to develop digital sovereignty.

Through the construction of data centers in the national territory it is a new way of demonstrating power, since it guarantees that the State protects democracy, the freedom of all its citizens, as well as protecting its secrets and national interests from technology companies or from foreign countries. (Cattaruzza, 2019, p. 71).

The territorialization of data centers has the objective of centralizing the concentration of data through physical infrastructures with national jurisdiction and energy resources of the Nation-State that allow maintaining the accessibility of these data that many of them belong to banks, public administration, different ministries and people. (Cattaruzza, 2019, pp. 72-73).

Therefore, it can be concluded that with digital colonialism it has been shown that there is an asymmetry of power between all countries, only those that have the national infrastructure and that control their data, their technology and artificial intelligence, can really pursue and achieve the digital sovereignty.

For this reason, it is important that countries have a digital legal framework that specifies the creation of a National Digital and Data Agency that is responsible for the cyber domains of each country. In turn, that within this legislation, the central governments approve the construction of data centers throughout the national territory and that technology companies and foreign countries are forced to comply with the laws of data storage, use and protection. In this way, countries can have a greater capacity to respond to foreign interference through cyber attacks, cyber-espionage, fake news and disinformation and with these counter-policies achieve autonomy and digital sovereignty.


    Bellanger, P. (2011, 08 30). De la souveraineté en général et de la souveraineté numérique en particulier. Retrieved from Les Echos Fr.: Cattaruzza, A. (2019). La technique détermine-t-elle la donnée? In A. Cattaruzza, Géopolitique des Données Numériques (p. 40-41). París: Le Cavalier Bleu.

    Gueham, F. (2017, 02 02). Digital Sovereignty. Retrieved from Fondation four l´innovation politique: Nice Sophia Antipolis University. (2016, 10 07). Digital Sovereignty. Nice, France. Retrieved from

    Posch, R. (2017). Digital Sovereignty and It-Security for a Prosperous Society. Retrieved from Research Gate:

    Propp, K. (2019, 12, 11). Waving the flag of digital sovereignty. Retrieved from Atlantic Council:

    Couldry, N., & Mejias, U. (2018, 07). Data colonialism: rethinking bid data´s relation to the contemporary subject. Retrieved from LSE Research Online:

    Greenberg, A. (2016, 08 02). It´s been 20 years since this man declared cyberspace independence. Retrieved from Wired:

    Snowden, E. (n.d.). Revelations. Retrieved from Free Snowden: The Courage Foundation:

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Cisneros, Miriam. “La importancia de la Soberanía Digital y como alcanzarla a través de la Territorialización de los Datos.” CEMERI, 9 sept. 2022,