Digital Autonomy? Measuring the Global Digital Dependence Structure

29 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2023

See all articles by Maximilian Mayer

Maximilian Mayer

CASSIS - Center for Advanced Security, Strategic and Integration Studies

Yen-Chi Lu

CASSIS - Center for Advanced Security, Strategic and Integration Studies

Date Written: March 30, 2023

Abstract

The concern with “digital sovereignty” is animating heated political discussions around the world. However, the emphasis on autonomy tends to underestimate the extent to which major economies rely on digital technologies from abroad. Decades of neoliberal deregulation, trade, and technology-driven globalization created far-reaching dependencies that cannot be reversed overnight. This paper presents key results of the Digital Dependence Index (DDI). This new index draws on a broad range of indicators and three data sets to measure the dependency of 23 countries on digital technologies from abroad. While results differ greatly concerning different sectors (software, hardware, and Intellectual Property) and dimensions (such as trade, infrastructure), the overall picture shows a high average degree of digital dependence. In 2019, 87 percent of countries were highly vulnerable. Although the global dependence structure appears remarkably stable over time, there are substantial changes. China, South Korea, Russia, Kenya, and the US became more autonomous during the last decade. Japan and Indonesia, in contrast, experienced the most pronounced increases in digital dependency while the remaining 16 countries’ positions changed very little. In addition, the DDI reveals a very uneven global landscape of digital dependence. The US is by far the least digitally dependent country with a value of 0.47. It managed to widen the “autonomy gap” vis-à-vis the other countries. The most pronounced asymmetry between the US and the world exists for infrastructure dependence. This means that the US is most autonomous regarding the infrastructural level of the “stack.” Only China and South Korea could reduce the distance to the leader. China, in particular, made the greatest gains during the last ten years. European countries have maintained a highly vulnerable status while their autonomy gap to the US, China, and South Korea widened.

Keywords: Autonomy, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Dependence

Suggested Citation

Mayer, Maximilian and Lu, Yen-Chi, Digital Autonomy? Measuring the Global Digital Dependence Structure (March 30, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4404826 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4404826

Maximilian Mayer

CASSIS - Center for Advanced Security, Strategic and Integration Studies ( email )

Römerstraße 164
Bonn, DE NRW 53117
Germany

Yen-Chi Lu (Contact Author)

CASSIS - Center for Advanced Security, Strategic and Integration Studies ( email )

Römerstraße 164
Bonn, DE NRW 53117
Germany

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