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In July 2020, the Federal Government announced in its program for the German Council Presidency that it wanted to "establish digital sovereignty as the leitmotif of European digital policy". The prominent example is just one of many of the extent to which the concept of “digital sovereignty” has developed into a key term in the debate about digitization in recent years.
Also at the European level and in other European states, there are consistent calls for greater self-determination and strategic autonomy with regard to technology and the digital economy. These calls serve as shorthand for the aspiration to reduce the dependency on digital infrastructures and services from foreign providers, notably the US. The global circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic and its accompanying changes have added weight to the calls for more independence and decision-making capacity in the digital sphere.
However, a common or at least consistent understanding of what is meant by this or what its associated requirements are, has yet to emerge. In particular – but not exclusively – in the political sphere, we can see that this concept is tied to various interpretations and associations.
The various meanings that the concept of digital sovereignty have in Germany and Europe are broken down and classified in this research paper. For this purpose, the origin of the concept and its discursive function on the German and European level will be analyzed.
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