Mar 11, 2024 | Blogs, Resources

Mastering Your National Digital Destiny: The Power of Data Sovereignty to Fuel Innovation 

In Part One of our Mastering Your Digital Destiny series, ThinkOn CEO, Craig McLellan, explores the value of data and how we can protect data sovereignty to fuel economic growth through innovation. Stay tuned for Part Two, in which Craig discusses the impact of cybercrime and the power of data sovereignty to protect against ransomware and other forms of cyberattack.

By Craig McLellan, CEO, ThinkOn

In today’s digital world, data fuels innovation, commerce, and our national economy. To protect our destiny as a nation, we must ensure data is securely stored, safe from foreign interference, and managed within Canadian jurisdictions where it can be protected.

In today’s economy, data is the most valuable resource and drives most of our market capitalization. “[It] is at the heart of our intangibles-based economy,” according to digital economy expert Bob Fay in a recent article for The Globe and Mail, “It’s central to innovation and new technologies such as generative AI… It is the principal driver of economic growth and wealth in this era.”[1]

Economic opportunity through innovation determines the strength of our national economy.

Myth #1: Data sovereignty limits innovation

The imperative to protect our data sovereignty has never been more crucial. If we can’t protect our data within our own borders, we can’t protect and nurture the communities, businesses, and governments that rely on Canadian data to innovate and drive economic opportunity.

The Business Council of Canada supports the imperative to protect our national economy. “It is only through our enduring economic prosperity where we find the talent, resources, and innovation necessary to achieve our national ambitions, protect the lives and livelihoods of Canadians, and play a positive and influential role on the world stage.”[2]

Far from limiting our ability to innovate, a sovereign cloud protects our data and enables Canadian organizations to leverage our collective knowledge without fear of foreign interference or theft of intellectual property, which hampers our ability to compete and thrive as a world economy.

The state of our national economy and the management of Canadian data are inextricably linked. If we are to grow as a sovereign nation and compete on a global scale, we need to protect our data sovereignty.

Myth #2: Data residency and data sovereignty are synonymous

Data is nomadic in a global economy. You can capture data in one country, store it in another, process it in a third, and utilize it in a fourth, fifth, or sixth jurisdiction. Your data is then like a person without a country, subject to many legislations and protected by none.

To protect sensitive data from this scenario, it’s important to understand the difference between data residency and data sovereignty. Data residency is the physical location of the data. If your data centre is located in the country where the data was collected, it resides within that jurisdiction.

What happens to your data next determines whether it remains sovereign.  It could be managed by entities abroad with access to the infrastructure housing the data, but not necessarily the data itself.

Understanding your cloud provider’s data supply chain

To maintain true data sovereignty, data must remain in the country of origin at all times, in transit, and while being accessed. Since all the major hyperscalers are U.S.-based and subject to the U.S. Cloud Act, they cannot offer a true sovereign cloud.

Ask your CSP where their data resides. Do they have “trusted” contractors managing your data outside the jurisdiction that determines your sovereignty? As foreign companies, those contractors can be forced by their government to hand over your data—often without your knowledge. When that happens, your data is no longer sovereign.

Your data supply chain should be totally transparent at every step of the data journey. To ensure true data sovereignty, it’s crucial to keep your data within Canadian borders and take responsibility for the supply chain.

The Canadian solution: Homegrown talent for a sovereign supply chain

Canadian sovereignty begins at home, with Canadian innovation and Canadian talent. A prosperous national digital economy means investing in our future as a sovereign nation and supporting the development of skilled talent with an understanding of Canadian business—and Canadian values.

At ThinkOn, we understand the importance of homegrown solutions and technology advancements to support our domestic supply chains. As part of our mandate to support advanced research and development, and contribute to national skills development, ThinkOn has partnered with Canadore College in North Bay, Ontario, to open a Global Security Event Operations Centre (SOC) run by a Canadian research and response team.

Our association with Canadore is an investment in developing home-grown talent, offering opportunities to skilled Canadian cybersecurity students, and contributing to the future of the Canadian technology industry and Canadian data sovereignty.

ThinkOn: The Truly Sovereign Choice

Data sovereignty matters more than ever in Canada. Foreign markets focus on driving economic advantage for themselves, so we must protect our sovereignty if we’re going to drive Canadian growth and prosperity. The Business Council of Canada goes a step further: “For decades now, successive Canadian governments have overlooked, taken for granted, or simply ignored the principle that economic security is national security.”[3]

In a time of blurred digital borders, it’s up to us as Canadians to decide how we’re going to protect our most precious asset.

The ThinkOn platform includes ThinkOn Canadian Sovereign Cloud and our trusted infrastructure (IaaS), data protection (BaaS), data archiving, business continuity (DRaaS), and Object Storage services for advanced protection from cybercrime.

  • We have the strategy, resources, and technology to keep data secure, compliant, and recoverable.
  • ThinkOn Sovereign Cloud means data residency and governance stay within borders of origin, ensuring data sovereignty, traceability, and supply chain management in full compliance with local regulations.
  • ThinkOn Sovereign Cloud is backed by VMware Sovereign Cloud designation and built to handle PBMM data.

Ultimately, protecting our data sovereignty is how we support our country and determine our destiny as a nation. That means keeping control of our data and protecting our data sovereignty.

Learn more about how data sovereignty protects our national economy in my TEDx Talk, Mastering your Digital Destiny: The Power of Data Sovereignty.

This is Part One of our Mastering your Digital Destiny series. Join us for Part Two where we’ll talk about the impact of cybercrime and the power of data sovereignty to protect against ransomware and other cyberattacks.

[1] The Globe and Mail. Bob Fay. 2023. “Data is the precious asset we chronically undervalue.”

[2] Business Council of Canada. 2023. “Economic Security is National Security.”

[3] Business Council of Canada. 2023. “Economic Security is National Security.”

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