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CyberBRICS pp 271–280Cite as

BRICS Countries to Build Digital Sovereignty


This concluding chapter elaborates on one of the first considerations of this book: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are home to 3.2 billion people, or 42% of the world’s population, and this means BRICS hold 42% of one of the most valuable resources on the planet: the personal data produced by those 3.2 billion individuals. This chapter argues that the BRICS grouping is increasingly aware of the economic opportunities brought by digital technology but also that “free” digital services provided by foreign corporations are not free. They are paid with one of the most precious national assets – i.e. data – and, ultimately, with national sovereignty. Based on the research conducted by the CyberBRICS Project, this text contends that BRICS countries are developing cybersecurity frameworks, and particularly data privacy regulations, as a strategic tool to reassert their digital sovereignty.

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  1. 1.

    See Brazilian Presidency of the BRICS. (2019).

  2. 2.

    Research developed by the World Bank has demonstrated that 10% increase in broadband penetration can result in a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of up to 3.2%, with benefits ranging from the generation of services and jobs to an increase in family income. See World Bank (2016)

    The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have echoed such results stressing that the benefits of the expansion of Interne penetration, generates greater availability and efficient use of services provided over the Internet, fostering social inclusion and productivity, and strengthening national governance. See OECD & IDB (2017).

  3. 3.

    See Belli (2017d).

  4. 4.

    The concept of Data Colonialism is eloquently explored by Couldry and Mejias (2018, 2019).

  5. 5.

    A telling example illustrating the conspicuous interest of technology giants in BRICS markets is the very aggressive and unsuccessful attempt by Facebook to introduce so-called zero-rated services in India through the and Free Basics initiatives. Facebook’s zero-rating projects, aimed at sponsoring a limited set of applications, whose data consumption is not counted against the users’ data allowance, have been prohibited by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, TRAI. The regulator de facto barred Facebook’s plan arguing that, by sponsoring access to only a limited amount of applications, zero rating plans violate net neutrality principles, and “can prove to be risky in the medium to long term as the knowledge and outlook of users would be shaped only by the information made available through those select offerings”. See TRAI (2016). Importantly, the purpose of the majority of zero-rating plans such as the aforementioned Facebook initiatives is to steer users’ attention towards predefined services, thus capturing users’ attention and, consequently, their personal data. See Belli (2017a). Belli (2018: 69).

  6. 6.

    See Eyal (2014).

  7. 7.

    See CyberBRICS (2019).

  8. 8.

    See BRICS Ministers of Communication (2019).

  9. 9.

    Dedicated analysis on BRICS policies and strategies to deploy and reclaim digital sovereignty will be the object of a future publication of the CyberBRICS project.

  10. 10.

    In her Political Guidelines for the Next European Commission, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen argues that “it is not too late to achieve technological sovereignty” in some areas of critical technology, including algorithms, blockchain, and quantum computing. See von der Leyen (2019: 13). This statement is echoed by French President, Emmanuel Macron, stressing that “the battle we’re fighting is one of sovereignty…If we don’t build our own champions in all areas—digital, artificial intelligence—our choices will be dictated by others.” See Propp (2019).

  11. 11.

    As an instance, see the European Data Protection Supervisor’s opinion on online manipulation and personal data (EDPS 2018).

  12. 12.

    This term refers to a general mistrust of consumers and regulators regarding the activities and intentions of – especially large-sized and US-based – technology companies.

  13. 13.

    See European Parliament (2019).

  14. 14.

    See WEF (2011).

  15. 15.

    See BRICS (2019c).

  16. 16.

    See ibid., paragraph 53.

  17. 17.


  18. 18.

    See Brazilian Presidency of the BRICS (2019).

  19. 19.

    A variety of strategies, policies and programmes promoted by both public and private stakeholders in the BRICS have been discussed during a series of dedicated CyberBRICS events, analysing i.a. 5G and new digital infrastructures, data protection, cybersecurity frameworks, and Sino-Brazilian cooperation on Internet Governance. Detailed information, including video recordings of the seminars, are available at

  20. 20.

    See Borger (2013).

  21. 21.

    See Sanger and Perlroth (2019).

  22. 22.

    See Idem.

  23. 23.

    For an analysis of the Russian Internet Sovereignty Law, see Shcherbovich (2019a, b).

  24. 24.

    For a discussion of the Indian policies aimed at sovereign control of data, see Basu et al. (2019). See also the Russian, Chinese and Indian analyses in this book for a wider analysis and contextualisation of data localisation norms in those countries.

  25. 25.

    See ITU (2016).

  26. 26.

    See ITU (2016).

  27. 27.

    See South China Morning Post (2020).

  28. 28.

    See Russian Business Today (2018).

  29. 29.

    See Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia, Inovações e Comunicações (2018).

  30. 30.

    See Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia, Inovações e Comunicações (2019).

  31. 31.

    The CyberBRICS team elaborated an unofficial English translation of the new General Data Protection Law, better known by its Brazilian acronym “LGPD”. See Belli et al. (2020).

  32. 32.

    See BRICS (2018).

  33. 33.

    See Basu et al. (2019).

  34. 34.

    See Shcherbovich (2019a, b).

  35. 35.

    See Samm (2019).

  36. 36.

    See Wei (2019).

  37. 37.

    See Mungadze (2019).

  38. 38.

    For a perspective on the growing importance of data control in the Brazilian context, see Belli (2017b, c). For a wider discussion of the concept of “data control by design” and its relevance to preserve individual rights to data protection online, see Belli et al. (2017).

  39. 39.

    See Cybersecurity Insiders (2019).

  40. 40.


  41. 41.

    For instance, Brazil has currently developing a new cybersecurity strategy in compliance with Decree No. 9637, of 26 December 2018, establishing the National Information Security Policy. See

  42. 42.

    As an instance, see the CyberBRICS interactive map comparing Data Protection across BRICS countries

  43. 43.

    See Idem.

  44. 44.

    See BRICS (2019b).

  45. 45.

    See BRICS (2019a).

  46. 46.

    See Idem.

  47. 47.

    See Belli (2019).


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Belli, L. (2021). BRICS Countries to Build Digital Sovereignty. In: Belli, L. (eds) CyberBRICS. Springer, Cham.

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