Technology Sovereignty Influence on the Development of Emerging Markets
Rapid technological development and global big tech have contributed to the widening of the gap between rich and developing countries. Social media networks, fintech, and the internet as a whole have become powerful tools for collecting and using personal and business data. It is no secret that big tech has been collecting, using, and trading personal data without people’s consent solidifying the competitive advantage.
The data collected has been used to target users with ads and commercial messages for profit. As a result, these digital technologies have been fueling Digital Colonialism, where the rich are fortifying their financial dominance. This phenomenon provides large technological companies from the West a tool for controlling emerging markets and extracting profits and has caused the stagnation of underdeveloped nations.
Unarguably, big tech has an influence over the policies that govern how they do business. In other words, they use their power and influence to set the business standards and rules however it suits their interests. Consequently, technology giants often venture into other industries that were initially dominated by state and local organizations. Often it is the case that governmental and local private organizations cannot compete with large-scale technological companies due to the sheer volume of their resources (Coleman, 2019).
Large, monopolistic companies use their limitless resources to dominate underdeveloped markets. A good example is Uber, which has been running local taxi services out of business wherever they set their operations, like in South Africa. Furthermore, the advertisement and marketing sectors have seen this in action too, as Facebook and Google have brought local media in developing countries on the verge of extinction (Kwet, 2019).
What is Technology Sovereignty?
Technology sovereignty is a country’s ability to develop and implement technology crucial for its technological independence and welfare. It also includes alternative ways of acquiring technology, such as provisioning it from other nations without causing dependence or violating the country’s freedom (Crespi et al., 2021). For a nation to achieve technology independence, it must be able to avoid unilateral dependency, as we see in the case of developing countries where large-scale technology corporations entirely control the infrastructure. In essence, technology sovereignty is reached through independent technological and scientific development, or by adopting external technological solutions but without developing a dependent relationship with the external partner.
Often, the term “technology sovereignty” is used interchangeably with data sovereignty and information sovereignty, in which case the focus is on the country’s ability to provide the IT infrastructure and technology to fulfill the nations hosting interests, needs, and policies (Coleman, 2019). However, no single nation can be entirely self-reliant when it comes to IT, and technology sovereignty goes beyond technological autonomy that allows the adoption of new technology without dependence (Crespi et al., 2021).
Technology Sovereignty and Innovation Sovereignty
Technology sovereignty and innovation sovereignty are directly related, with the former serving as a bridge to the latter. To achieve short and long-term economic goals, innovation sovereignty involves developing technologies at the local level (Crespi et al., 2021). Both technology and innovation sovereignty are reached by generating relevant scientific and technological knowledge. It is important to note that scientific and technological knowledge does not have any real impact on the economy if there are no resources and prerequisites, such as a regulatory framework and infrastructure, for its application (Edler et al., 2021).
Innovation sovereignty serves to guarantee that the technologies employed in a society do not lead to dependence on monopolistic foreign companies. As a product of technology sovereignty, innovation sovereignty ensures that a country can satisfy its long-term technological requirements with local experts.
Technology Sovereignty and Economic Sovereignty
Adequate infrastructure and the ability to innovate create a favorable environment in which technology sovereignty may lead to economic sovereignty. Economic sovereignty refers to the ability of a country or a country bloc to benefit from independent ventures and partnerships with similar entities without being dependent on any of them (Crespi et al., 2021). Technology sovereignty helps establish innovation independence and eventually results in economic sovereignty, which stems from the need to provide free access to important resources, financing, critical technologies, and data (Edler et al., 2021). Technology sovereignty aims to help the domestic industry by enhancing innovation locally, which makes it intrinsically nationalistic (or regional) in nature. By stimulating innovation, technology sovereignty becomes necessary for achieving development priorities.
How Can Developing Nations Attain Technology Sovereignty
Essential technologies for technology sovereignty are defined using theoretical and conceptual frameworks. Correctly understanding the most critical aspects of technology sovereignty as they relate to technology requires expertise in analysis and relevant procedures (Edler et al., 2020). The initial stage in this process is deciding on the essential skills and knowledge to obtain. This stage is followed by researching the impact of the selected technology on society and the economy and, finally, providing the technology to the local community.
Technological alternatives help strengthen technological independence. Determining the economic viability of a particular alternative helps define its role as an alternative. (Edler et al., 2021). It is, nevertheless, critical to guarantee that technological options are accessible and can be built in developing nations. Technology sovereignty requires creating young talents and obtaining the necessary resources. To produce appropriate technologies in today’s volatile environment, developing nations need to acquire science and technology know-how by utilizing complex R&I instruments and creating knowledge carrier groups (Edler et al., 2020). They can achieve this by simplifying and reforming the curriculum at the relevant institutions of higher education (BCSD, 2020). For instance, the curriculums should be designed to promote research in agriculture tech and data analytics. University education and training must have clear strategies to eliminate knowledge gaps that slow down alternative technology innovation in developing nations.
Nonetheless, the resources and infrastructure necessary for alternative technologies to become a reality are almost always an unsurmountable obstacle for emerging economies. This is often due to the sheer scope of the research that needs to be performed and the need for more equipment and raw materials to develop and test new technologies (Edler et al., 2020). Consequently, to tackle these obstacles, countries and their educational institutions need to choose a narrower field to focus on. Research collaboration and information exchange regarding essential knowledge helps access the necessary technology and prevents unilateral dependencies.
Emerging nations must foster a technology culture and support scientific and technical knowledge throughout the educational system. Children must be allowed to interact with digital technology and develop capabilities while they are very young. For example, using the relevant technology to enable internet access for children in school and at home is a strategy that will improve the quality of learning (BCSD, 2020). To achieve this goal, teachers, researchers, local and state governments, and other stakeholders need to show intent to work together. The path of attaining technology sovereignty for emerging nations starts with understanding the importance of the right approach to technology.
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Crespi, F., Caravella, S., Menghini, M., & Salvatori, C. (2021). European Technological Sovereignty: An emerging framework for policy strategy. Intereconomics, 56(6), 348-354. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10272-021-1013-6
Kwet, M. (2019, March 13). Digital Colonialism is Threatening the Global South. Aljazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2019/3/13/digital-colonialism-is-threatening-the-global-south
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Edler, J., Blind, K., Kroll, H., & Schubert, T. (2021). Technology sovereignty as an emerging frame for innovation policy: Defining rationales, ends and means (No. 70). Fraunhofer ISI Discussion Papers-Innovation Systems and Policy Analysis.
Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development (BCSD). (2020). The Digital Transformation of Education: Connecting Schools Empowering Learners. International Telecommunication Union.