Austria has realised that attaining digital sovereignty by reducing dependencies on large software companies is crucial to ensure cybersecurity of the country, Florian Tursky, State Secretary for Digitalisation, told the Emirates News Agency (WAM).

“Imagine a large software provider decides to shut down its services overnight. Many functions, from e-mails to the creation of text documents, would then no longer be possible and the authorities would be unable to act,” he said in statements during the World Governments Summit in Dubai.

Within the framework of national digital strategies, Austria has devised Digital Sovereignty for Austria Action Plan to develop concrete measures for ensuring the security and sovereignty of the state, he said.

“Through this strategy we will reduce dependencies and secures Austria's autonomous ability and functioning in a digital world.”

Digital sovereignty is crucial

Austria's digital sovereignty is crucial not only to ensure its national security, but also to protect the society from potential risks, Tursky emphasised, citing reducing dependencies on large software companies as an example in that direction.

“With the Digital Action Plan, we are laying the foundations for an autonomous digital future so that these risks are minimised as far as possible.”

A key element of the action plan is the Digital Sovereignty Compass, which serves as an orientation tool for the Austrian administration and critical infrastructure. This enables the evaluation and derivation of short, medium, and long-term measures to strengthen resilience, the Secretary explained.

Identifying dependencies

Various digital dependency areas are divided into levels and classified using a traffic light system. This system critically examines dependencies and applies to public administration to identify the digital risks and minimise them, the official said.

“Our ‘Digital Action Plan’ will ensure that all Austrians benefit from the opportunities of digitalisation and to make ‘System Austria’ crisis-proof.”

As international cooperation in cybersecurity is particularly important, Austria is ready to share its experiences with partners and friends, Tursky said.

Austria-UAE digitalisation cooperation

The UAE is Austria’s primary trading and economic partner in the Arabian Gulf, the official stressed.

The relationship was elevated to a Strategic Partnership in 2021 during the Austria visit of President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

We intend to cooperate even closer in energy, in particular on hydrogen, and on Artificial Intelligence (AI). This collaboration is very promising, and we can learn from each other’s experiences.”

In World Bank GovTech working group for m-Gov (mobile-Government), Austria is Co-Chair and the UAE an active participant, offering an opportunity for both countries to support the developing countries, the Secretary pointed out.

While only eleven percent of the world’s population have fixed broadband internet access, even in rural areas of developing countries 88 percent of the population are covered by mobile broadband network, he noted.

By moving to m-Gov, government service delivery has become more effective and efficient in Austria. “We hope that our cooperation in this area will help countries evolve their digital public services towards custom-made Mobile-Government services of their own.”

Talking about the World Governments Summit in Dubai, Tursky said the presence of considerable number of leaders and experts from all over the world underlines the significance of this event.

He said he was happy to talk at the Summit about how the Austrian government was adapting its strategies and policies to keep pace with the rapid evolution of technology, especially in the field of AI.