Hay Festival Europe28: Interview with CEO Yvonne Hofstetter

Copyright: Hay Festival

In June 2020 and yet under the EU presidency of Croatia, the British Hay Festival of Literature had planned a meeting of 28 woman from all EU countries, thinking and writing of the future of Europe. Due to Covid-19, the festival was postponed and will take place from 6.-9. September 2020 in hybrid format.

In advance, Yvonne Hofstetter was interviewed for the festival on the topic of Europe and digital technologies.


Ms. Hofstetter, what appealed to you about the Europa28 project?


The quick answer is: I am European, and Europe is a daily experience I make.


During my entire career in technology and since 1999, I dealt with international teams and clients. French, British, Irish, Slovenian, Austrians, Romanians… many nations gathered in my teams during the last two decades. “The UN is sitting around my conference table”, I use to say until today. My teams grow even beyond Europe – and integrate Aussies, earlier also Russians, Americans or Turkish. 


I love the different senses of humor and to moderate the cultures my team mates contribute to our daily work. In fact, on working level Europe works well. As diverse as we are, we can overcome egoistic interest, which is often not the case on political level.


And Europe28 is female.


That’s true. 85% percent of my team mates are male. It’s lovely working with men. The leaders carry me, their CEO, literally on roses. “A female CEO is in our DNA”, they defend their CEO – also against sceptic voices heard, for example from potential investors who dislike women as leaders. Discrimination is still a topic.


In fact, more women with 21strategies would make a more balanced work environment; but in “hard core” technology development, there are not many. Most women – despite a technical or mathematical education – seem to decide against technology occupations. I still do not have an explanation why this is the case.


Hence, putting on my essayist head, I was delighted to be invited to a female project such as Europe28. I am proud to participate, and proud to stand up for the Europe I learned to love during my entire lifetime: a Europe diverse in culture, colorful by different habits and histories, and peaceful, a Europe relying on the rule of law, democracy, and social capitalism, a Europe which triggers my curiosity, my respect, and my joy.


Are there any inherently European traits that could prevent Europe from exploiting technologies to become a major hegemonic power; what you call a "strong democratic utopia for the future."


As a tech CEO I suffer that Europeans lack their own digital technology stake, other than globally leading nations. We must rely on 5G router technology from China; on platform technology from the US; on Bluetooth licenses from Apple; on artificial intelligence frameworks delivered by Google; and on data centers provided by Amazon.


As European technologists are equally well educated Americans or Chinese, meaning: we have equal intellectual capabilities, it is a political (and a financial) issue that Europe is lagging behind other leaders’ digital initiatives.

I firmly believe Europe has the power to convince other nations and continents of its benefits and of its successful peace and integration project. But then, Europe would need to change role in the choir of nations. Instead of remaining a free rider of US-American spendings and technology activities – from digitization to space and even military advances –, Europe would develop a strong sovereignty, for example with regard to own technology stakes.


Proprietary European technology can help making Europe stronger for a digital future, more independent from foreign suppliers, and even safer when for example protecting personal data better than other world regions do. Digital technologies, if used wisely, can protect Europe and its democratic values, and can secure a more independent future. Europe was, is an can be attractive in the next decades. Technology can help. But utmost important is that we Europeans stay strong as one family, defending what we have achieved till date.


The interview was taken by Sheila Hall, hayfestival.org