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Sovereignty is a political concept that refers to dominant power or authority.

The term, digital sovereignty refers to the ability of Europe to act independently in the digital world. The importance of an independent, autonomous and informed approach to digital transformation is crucial to ensure that all citizens equally participate and benefit from the process. In recent years, there have been increasing reports of algorithmic profiling, misinformation, and surveillance. In many cases, the private information and data of people in Europe are handled, screened, and managed by companies from outside of Europe. This in turn may sometimes lead to issues such as a lack of compliance with  European values, laws and regulations (e.g., the GDPR).

Digital sovereignty might also refer to the macro social transformation process of digitalisation. This means that digital sovereignty not only relates to computer technology or hardware, but some of the invisible yet extremely aspects such as digital connectivity (e.g., Next Generation Internet), digital data collections and cross-border data flows (Juhlia Pole, 2020).


Why does it matter?

In simple terms, digital sovereignty is about having a choice and grounding digital transformation in European values – including the emphasis on youth-centredness. The idea of digital sovereignty is to ensure that all children and young people in Europe have their data and personal information stored, managed and protected in line with the European standard.

At present, Europe and the European Youth Sector are primarily dependent on foreign-developed and owned technology assets. Many youth work organisations and young people have no choice but to use digital technologies developed and managed outside of the European Union. These technologies provide positive contributions to the sector. However, in the long term, it is important to co-explore solutions to support and strengthen the European youth sector in a meaningful way. To do so, this section provides resources and information on if and how young people can take part in the decisions related to the future of digital sovereignty in Europe.


Photo of Dr Alicja Pawluczuk
Dr Alicja Pawluczuk

Dr Alicja Pawluczuk is an ICTD Research Fellow at the United Nations University, and a Strategic Consultant on defining Digital Transformation at SALTO PI. Alicja’s research and community education practice focuses on digital youth work, youth digital inclusion, and gender digital inclusion.