Luxembourg’s digital vision: Q&A with Prime Minister Xavier Bettel

We spoke to Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, about how his government has made digitalization a central aim.

What is your vision for Luxembourg to become a digital champion at the European level and beyond?

I have been Prime Minister for almost 10 years now. In that time, we have been able to create a momentum for digitalization which is not coming from a single actor. Instead, our administration, our research centres, and our innovative companies push themselves ahead through friendly competition.

Let me be more specific:

  • We have a state-of-the-art High-Performance Computer (HPC) that strengthens our capabilities and takes part in the European High-Performance Computing (EuroHPC) network. But at the same time, our research centres are clients of the HPC.
  • Government ministries, in turn, get data-driven support for their decision-making from those research centres. And this results in future-proof policies.

You see, the HPC is only one part of the story. Success comes from the interconnection of all those actors. This creates a self-reinforcing ecosystem of expertise. Digitalization is the perfect by-product.

In your opinion, how can the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) support sustainable digitalization in Luxembourg?

ITU is a global organization, and digital communication happens to be a global affair. I’m not only talking about Luxembourg’s role in the history of satellite communication – since we continue to be home to a global satellite communication provider.

I like to say, only half-jokingly, that Luxembourg is bigger in space than we are on planet Earth. And since resources in space are limited, we will always need a strong global actor in that space.

At the same time, we need a strong ITU to drive the sustainability of our communication infrastructure. I don’t mean “sustainable” as a nice adjective in a social media post. I really believe we need ITU’s leadership on this topic to guarantee that we don’t focus on the wrong priorities.

Otherwise, we could end up with digital infrastructure that doesn’t fit the economic or ecological environment – for example, because it isn’t energy-efficient or produces too much waste.

What role could technologies like 5G, 6G, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and the metaverse play in Luxembourg’s digital future?

Technologies themselves play a triggering role. If they are not accessible, then they might change the status quo in the laboratory, but not in society or the economy.

Let me get more concrete: we continue building our quantum communication capabilities in Luxembourg.

Here we are using technology that is just barely coming to the market for a highly secure and future-proof way of exchanging cryptographic keys. To get this transfer from lab to market is not easy, but we want to achieve this with LuxQCI, as do our European partners.

At the same time, data sciences and privacy protection provide emerging technologies for projects like the Luxembourg National Data Service. We have created a team of data scientists that can offer the portfolio of services needed for value creation from public data. This is crucial to enable an anonymized and safe space for medical research in the public’s interest, to give only one example.

Such services – mainly about handling data in a safe way, with sound governance – are as important for our digital future as ground-breaking technologies are. After all, there is no AI without data.

What are Luxembourg’s priorities in terms of sustainable digital development over the next five years?

On a very high-level, I would say that we are building the organizations we need for the data-driven market economy of tomorrow – an economy that is based on knowledge and can reduce resource usage. In that sense, sustainability will be a topic not only on the consumer side. It is also about the energy that goes into our computing infrastructure.

We have made a lot of efforts to increase our capabilities for renewable energy production. This is made possible, for example, through new cooperation with Denmark. We wanted to make it possible for a landlocked country like Luxembourg to financially support the building of renewable energy production capacity. I believe this is one of the projects that can make a change in the next five years.

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