Digital Sovereignty has become a key phrase in Europe’s approach to the ever-continuing advances in digital technology. There are several goals that are connected with the concept of digital sovereignty:

  1. To find a “third way” between the U.S. approach of libertarian data capitalism (or “surveillance capitalism” [1]) and the approach of authoritarian states that seek total control over the actions of their citizens in the digital sphere;
  2. To safeguard fundamental rights, principles, and values in a globalized and digitized environment;
  3. To strengthen economies and make them competitive in the 21st century;
  4. To establish alternatives to established digital services and products, and thus ensure autonomy and freedom of choice;
  5. To safeguard personal and professional secrets in the context of digital communication and the use of digital services and products.

Acknowledging the need for digital sovereignty also acknowledges the fact that Europe and other regions have fallen behind in matters of digitization—whether related to industry, services, or education. Achieving the goals that have been outlined above require very different approaches in very different areas—ranging from economic promotion to the enactment of new laws.

One such approach that aims at digital sovereignty at the level of the Internet infrastructure is the establishment of an independent and open web index. A web index plays a fundamental role for the effective use of the Internet. In the western world, the field of Internet search is clearly dominated by Google which operates its own web index. The only alternative web index is maintained by Microsoft for its own search engine Bing. In Russia and China respectively, Yandex and Baidu operate localised web indexes. Breaking a monopoly like Google’s requires alternative search engines. However, in the current environment, such search engines still need to base their operation on one of the existing web indexes. Creating and maintaining a new web index is very costly and thus usually not a valid option for an emerging search provider.

The solution to this dilemma might be an open and collaborative web index, where resources across Europe are pooled to create a web index that can serve as a basis for search engine operators to establish services independently from the existing monopoly and without the need to adhere to pre-dictated terms of use. This idea will serve as an introductory example to this special track on digital sovereignty.

With regard to educational purposes, the need for an independent and objective source of educational resources is evident. Hence it is necessary to establish platforms and educational services that are easy to access and use. In particular, innovative technologies such as immersive environments, XR, etc. are not only drivers and enablers, but usually also associated with business models that do not promote digital sovereignty (on the contrary). Therefore, this topic should be highlighted within the research network for immersive learning, in order to connect the pioneers in education with experts in legal frameworks.

However, ensuring digital sovereignty is by no means limited to technological aspects. Digital sovereignty can also mean to enable the state and its legislators to maintain (or regain) the power of the law to shape social interactions and to provide protection from infringements of fundamental and other rights. This power has significantly been diminished in our modern digitized world.

We invite papers on (but not limited to) the following issues:

  • Efforts of legislators regarding digital sovereignty;
  • The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other legal acts as instruments of digital sovereignty;
  • Ongoing research projects that aim to promote digital sovereignty;
  • Technological aspects (like XR) of digital sovereignty;
  • Business models for platforms and services.

Please be aware that because this is a Special Track of iLRN 2021, the submission should somehow draw connections with and be relevant to the scope of the conference, that is, immersive learning. This will also be a criteria for acceptance through the review process.


[1] S. Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. New York, NY, USA: Public Affairs, 2018.

Paper submission

Submissions to this track should follow all expectations listed on the Academic Stream page.

Papers should be saved in PDF format and submitted online via the conference’s ConfTool submission system. Please note that submissions cannot be accepted via email.

Special track leadership and committee

Christian GemChristian Geminn is managing director of the Project Group Constitutionally Compatible Technology Design (provet) at the at the Research Center for  Information System Design (ITeG) at the University of Kassel and coordinator of the Working Group Legal of the Open Search Foundation (OSF).


Kai ErenliKai Erenli studied law at the University of Graz, Austria. He wrote his doctoral thesis about the legal aspects of open-source licensing and has deep insights into IT Law. He is a member of the board of the Austrian Network for IT Lawyers and at iLRN. He is the director of the Bachelor program “Interactive Media & Games Business” at FH des BFI Vienna. Since 2013 he has also served as General Counsel for a Vienna-based animation studio and  works as Consultant for Immersive Applications. Kai was awarded with the Ars Docendi state award for excellent teaching in Business & Law by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy.