Photo: NTB Scanpix

Digital sovereignty and autonomy (GAIA)

2019 - 2022 (Ongoing) Project number: 22520-1
Research project
NUPI in collaboration with Simula Research Lab will map global data flows and their impact on national autonomy and sovereignty.

Cyberspace is increasingly distributed thanks to recent advances in cloud computing and higher network capacities. An online service is now a collection of macro-services that are hosted at diverse geographic locations that may be under different jurisdictions. A closer look reveals that services which most nations rely on are not contained within the respective national borders. Examples include services such as Facebook, Google, Whatsapp and PayPal, as well as infrastructures such as DNS, and authentication micro-services that are critical to national services including public services, health and online banking. As these digital services frequently cross boundaries and function globally, technological change undermine and challenge national autonomy and sovereignty. This is seen reflected at the political level, with an increasing number of states invoking the need for national autonomy to impose tighter controls on service placement and Internet connectivity. 

Extant research in social science is too heavily focused on the policy side, on strategies and securitization discourses, paying too little attention to the interplay with the technical facet of the Internet. Based on the mapping of digital pathways NUPI will examine how cyber infrastructure augments and undermines national capacity to act, and may challenge national autonomy. NUPI will compare the changing technological realities with existing political assumptions and initiatives through case studies of Norway, Sweden, Estonia and the Netherlands. 

Furthermore, we will explore the implications of such recent digital developments on international governance. From the policy perspective, we will investigate whether the digitalized world order leads to more interdependence between states or whether it leads to a higher degree of mistrust in international politics. Our hypothesis is that it leads to both. More specifically, we will study cyber governance and the role of international organizations, NGOs and enterprises. The emergence of new arenas, informal networks, conferences, and multi-stakeholder initiatives, enterprises and NGOs indicates a reduced relevance of organizations like the UN and WTO. The rise of informal structures at the expense of the UN and international organizations is not confined to the digital domain (e.g. G20 ++) but represents a global trend towards power shift to informal arenas with more selective representations, fewer commitments, less legality and authority, but potentially more efficiency.

Funding program

The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway's research programme IKTPLUSS



Prestigious project to NUPI on digitalization and the modern world order

October 26, 2018

New project to investigate vulnerabilities on the Internet and political consequences.


Publication : Academic article

Hacking democracy: managing influence campaigns and disinformation in the digital age

How are states responding to the threat of using digital technologies to subvert democratic processes? Protecting political and democratic processes from ...
Publication : Academic chapter/article/Conference paper

The role of the UN Security Council in cybersecurity: international peace and security in the digital age

At the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, the UN Security Council is faced with difficult questions about its efficacy, relevance and legitimacy. ...

Critical communication infrastructures and Huawei

Recently, there have been growing cyber-safety concerns over telecom equipment made by the Chinese vendor Huawei. This has led many countries to ban Huawei ...
Publication : NUPI Report

The Politics of Stability: Cement and Change in Cyber Affairs

In November 2018, the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace, inaugurated one year earlier ‘to develop proposals for norms and policies to enhance ...
Publication : NUPI Policy Brief

Forebygging av krig og konflikt i cyberdomenet

(Available in Norwegian only): Cyberdomenet representerer kanskje en av vår tids største trusler mot internasjonal fred og sikkerhet men er viet lite ...

Project Manager

Niels Nagelhus Schia

Senior Research Fellow, Head of the Research group on security and defense, Head of NUPI's Research Centere on New Technology


Cyber  Security policy  Governance  International organizations  Diplomacy
Sun 2 Jun 2019
Time: 12:00 Europe/Oslo
Location: NUPI

Lunch seminar: Peace, war and alliances in cyberspace

What are cyberspace operations? In what ways is conflict in this “domain” different from conflict in physical domain? And how do cyberspace operations relate to information warfare, what are the similarities and differences?

Thu 2 May 2019
Time: 09:00 Europe/Oslo
Location: NUPI

Breakfast seminar: Cyber threats and what to do about them?

Michael Sulmeyer, Director for Belfer Center's Cyber Project, is visiting NUPI to discuss cyber security and international politics.

Tue 5 Feb 2019
Time: 09:00 Europe/Oslo
Location: NUPI

Chinese cyber security and consequences for Europe

Chinese tech giants are increasingly visible and established in the European market. Are we ready for all that this implies?