University of Amsterdam: Quantum Computing and the Global South


University of Amsterdam: Quantum Computing and the Global South

AWO’s report ‘Quantum Computing and the Global South’ was commissioned by the Research Group on the Law and Governance of Quantum Technologies at the University of Amsterdam, established with the support of Quantum Delta NL’s Action Line 4 and the Centre for Quantum & Society (CQS).

At present, research and analysis on quantum computing within the Global South are dominated by national security approaches. This report was commissioned to offer broad and alternate frames.

Please join us for the report launch and online panel discussion, hosted by CQS, on May 16, 2024. The panel will feature Aparna Surendra (AWO), Dr. Amal Kasry (UNESCO), Dr. Ulrich Mans (Quantum Delta NL), and Anushka Mittal (IViR), and will be moderated by Prof. Dr. Joris van Hoboken (IViR). Register here for the event.

Across the Global South, countries are advocating for a greater role in international technology governance, including for quantum technologies. While quantum computing discussions in the Global North often limit their focus to China, India, and Singapore, quantum computing activity is underway in a wide range of countries across the G-77, from Brazil to South Africa. In parallel, there have been global calls for open, equitable scientific collaboration and technology governance mechanisms. In November 2023, UNESCO adopted a proposal to declare 2025 the International Year of Quantum Science and Technology, an effort led primarily by the Global South.

AWO’s report focuses on G-77 states with some level of quantum computing activity and attempts to engage realistically with a nascent technology. This is especially important in a climate where the tremendous investment and interest in quantum computing often overshadows its current technical reality.

Through desk research and an analysis of policies, partnerships, and industrial developments within the G-77, we propose an initial typology for how the Global South will access or likely gain access to advanced quantum computing.

Group 1: Build

‘Build’ states are looking to be first or early movers to develop sovereign quantum computing capabilities. They have national quantum technology strategies and have mobilised public investment to support academics and researchers. They have the most active quantum computing ecosystems, and activity that spans the quantum computing value chain, including R&D focused on quantum computing hardware, software, algorithms and cloud solutions for quantum computing.

Group 2: Procure

(This is a more speculative group; its formation will rely on future supply chains.)

‘Procure’ states will pursue sovereign quantum computers by procuring quantum computing hardware and software through strategic or commercial partnerships. States within this category will have financial resources and strong diplomatic relationships with quantum computing ‘providers’ but will not have relevant or sufficiently mature domestic technical expertise across the quantum computing stack, especially in quantum computing hardware.

Group 3: Cloud Access

‘Cloud Access’ states are solely reliant on commercial, cloud-based quantum computing with hardware located in foreign jurisdictions. While commercial cloud services can supplement sovereign quantum computer activity and help engage a wider range of academic and commercial entities with the technology, they are the only technology access point for ‘Cloud Access’ states.

Based on this typology, we analyse case studies and potential impacts on the political economy of such an emerging technology, including reliance on U.S. based commercial cloud computing infrastructure, environmental impacts, and possible new geopolitical dynamics, with dependencies beyond the US-China polarity.

We conclude with preliminary recommendations that are deliberately expansive. These include mapping supply chain developments, supporting Global South participation within existing governance bodies, and exploring more speculative forms of computing access and governance structures.

The report is intended to be an initial intervention, and we hope it spurs further research, country-level analysis and engagement, and broader discussions on equitable quantum computing development.

Read the full report here. If you’re interested in this topic or have any questions or comments on the analysis, please contact