Tele2 secure collaboration hub for public sector keeps Swedish data in Sweden

Data sovereignty is eftersökt these days

A Swedish telco has rolled a collaboration platform for public sector organizations worried about sensitive data leaving Sweden.

Tele2 Collaborate is a service that uses the Element Server Suite (ESS) and comprises chat functionality, video meetings, whiteboard, and document sharing.

ESS is based on the Matrix protocol and allows Tele2 Collaborate to run without doubts about data sovereignty, which is increasingly a factor in corporate thinking regarding cloud and communication services.

According to a study [PDF] by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by Element, services including end-to-end encryption and data sovereignty are in demand by IT leaders. The study, which was conducted in 2023 and polled 217 global leaders, found the majority wanted a communication platform that was secure and wouldn't require data to leave the country's jurisdiction.

Worries about where data might end up have not escaped the attention of the tech giants. Microsoft, for example, has the Microsoft Cloud for Sovereignty.

However, Microsoft's approach to sovereignty has not met with universal approval. While it has acknowledged that "sovereignty can mean different things for different scenarios," others are blunter.

Frank Karlitschek, CEO of open source content collaboration platform provider Nextcloud, told The Register: "Digital sovereignty means that people or organizations are in full control of their data, applications, privacy, and digital life."

And communications.

The Tele2 Collaborate service was designed in the wake of the Swedish Digital Collaboration Platforms (dSam) project [PDF], which was kicked off as Swedish authorities began to look for alternatives to Skype for Business, extended support for which is due to end on October 14, 2025.

In the report, the Swedish Tax Agency and the Swedish Enforcement Authority concluded they couldn't simply move to Microsoft Teams as Skype was wound down.

"The principal argument was that if Teams were used in the way Skype is used today, large amounts of data would be exposed to Microsoft in a way that would be incompatible with data protection and privacy regulations," it says.

The report notes that Nextcloud "would best meet our requirements" but also calls out Element as another possible solution.

It says: "Element differs from other chat solutions in that it uses the open source Matrix protocol, reducing lock-in effects since both the client and server can be replaced with other solutions on the market.

"This means that organisations can still collaborate with each other even if they choose different clients and servers. The Matrix protocol is based on a decentralised design, with robust federation capabilities built in."

Tele2 describes its service as "the first of its kind that enables collaboration without worrying about sensitive data leaving Sweden."

Matthew Hodgson, CEO of Element, told us: "Governments have never been more aware of the independence they lose by not having full ownership of their technology and data.

"Digital sovereignty is about data ownership and control. A US-vendor controlled cloud service with some datacenters in the EU just doesn’t give the security that EU governments need.

"Right across the EU, governments and public sector organizations have a genuine and justified distrust of centralized vendor-controlled cloud platforms – just look at Microsoft's recent Azure breach in June 2023. I honestly don't think that's really registered in Silicon Valley." ®

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