DSI – Digital Society Institute

DSI - Digital Society Institute

ESMT founded the Digital Society Institute (DSI) in October 2015. Academically independent, DSI provides objective research, information, cross-cutting analysis, and strategies as business and society become increasingly digitalized. The institute has three main areas of focus: digital society and strategy; digital risks and evaluation of solutions; innovation and regulation. Allianz, BASF, and EY are actively engaged in the institute.


The world is still pretty much in the middle of its journey into digitality. Many technological paradigms are young, or at least have not yet matured. At the core of many of society’s struggles lie concerns about security, civil rights, and innovation, which have grown into political, economic, and societal challenges. Right now, the lack of computer security is threatening national sovereignty, international peace, and trade. The incapacity to innovate digitally is beginning to change established economic orders, weakening static “old tech” companies, and empowering and rewarding many (though not all) “new tech” companies.

Understanding and managing these issues is hard. IT is highly complex, especially as it is not just tech anymore. IT is everywhere, so everything has an IT-side to it. If these complexities are not understood, crucial aspects may be overlooked and management will fail.

This fate applies to individuals, society, politics, and large companies alike. Knowledge and informed strategies are needed to proceed in this fast-paced and allencompassing process. Only an informed process will allow us to continue to be relevant actors, profitable companies, politically independent players, and most of all, responsible decision-makers.

DSI will show that security, digital rights and values, and digital innovation belong at the top of management’s agenda. Its independent research will be the foundation for practical strategies. To overcome persistent market and policy failures, DSI will provide the necessary transparency and know-how to grow a healthy and responsible IT-market. It will develop technological paradigms, political options and perspectives, as well as a range of industrial policies and economically beneficial market and investment strategies. In the areas of security and privacy, it will explore how to solve traditional tradeoffs and high-end security problems through high-security IT concepts from computer science. In addition, DSI will focus on digital innovations in our emerging age of “smartification” and help societies and companies to overcome their difficulties.

DSI is led by Dr. Sandro Gaycken. An advisory council of academics, business leaders, and policymakers also supports the institute. Members of the advisory council include Chairman Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference; Vice Chairman Dr. Robert Blackburn, President, Information Technology and Supply Chain Operations, BASF; Thomas Bagger, Head of Policy Planning, German Federal Foreign Office; Ambassador Sorin Ducaru, Assistant Secretary General, NATO; Melissa Hathaway, Senior Advisor, the Belfer Center at Harvard; Brigitte Zypries, State Secretary, Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy; Dr. Stefan Heißner, Partner, EY; and Dr. Ralf Schneider, Group CIO, Allianz.

Director of DSI:
Dr. Sandro Gaycken is an internationally renowned technology- and security researcher exploring the nexus of digital technology, economy, politics, and society. Sandro’s research focus is on digital rights, digital strategy, cyber defense, and cyber security. He works as a consultant and reviewer for the German Bundestag; several German ministries; international institutions such as the EU, UNO, EAEA, and NATO; as well as for several DAX companies and unions. He has published four monographs and more than 60 articles in addition to regularly writing op-eds in leading newspapers and authoring official government publications. He is a fellow of Oxford University’s Martin College; an EastWest Senior Fellow; an associate fellow of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP); a member of the benchmarking group INBENZHAP for Industrie 4.0; a director for strategic cyber defense projects in the NATO SPS Program; and editor-in-chief of the Springer Science Briefs in Cybersecurity.

IT Leadership and Management