Element brings Matrix to Europe

July 15, 2020

Although Element is working with companies around the world, our busiest region is Europe and in particular European governments and public sector organisations.

There are multiple reasons, but three of the biggest are:

  • We’re a European company, so there’s a natural local understanding and practicalities such as time zones
  • Traditional messaging and collaboration solutions tend to produce centralised systems, which leaves European governments with issues around their data being stored on service providers’ systems based outside of their own country and jurisdiction.
  • The US government seems increasingly anti-encryption, which creates issues for any organisation that wants to protect its data when considering the use of US-based technology solutions.

Data ownership, open collaboration and privacy are driving the use of Matrix

Element’s messaging and collaboration solution, being based on the open source Matrix project, is decentralised. This enables governments and public sector organisations to host and control their own data and messages, and therefore know it is under their own ownership and sovereignty. That is a huge improvement over having it stored within something like Slack, or leaking into consumer apps such as Telegram, WhatsApp or Zoom.

With Element being entirely open source, governments are able to examine Element’s end-to-end encryption and know exactly what they are getting. No obfuscation, and certainly no backdoors. And, again, being decentralised and open source, one can self-host, meaning there’s no external service provider that can be pressured into granting third party access. Moreover, Element intrinsically verifies the identity of who you’re talking to, so you can be sure you are not talking to an eavesdropper.

Finally, the open and decentralised Matrix network allows governments to easily federate an Element-based implementation across multiple public sector organisations, their private sector supply chain, other governments and even their citizens. Traditional tools, such as WhatsApp or Slack, try to force every party to have to jump into their own walled garden in order to collaborate. For centralised service providers, collaboration between different organisations isn’t a benefit it gives customers; it’s a strategy for growth.

European governments are turning to Matrix

That is why the French government is currently expanding the use of its Matrix-based messenger and collaboration tool, Tchap, into regional government creating a deployment of over 300,000 users.

We see the same in Germany where BWI is currently implementing a Matrix-based solution across the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) called BwMessenger, targeting 100,000 users.

Similarly Dataport, a major IT service provider for public administration in Germany, will shortly begin to deploy a Matrix-based solution offering open source collaboration to 500k users across public offices and education throughout Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg. The deployment, aimed at improving the region’s digital sovereignty, includes secondary schools and further education establishments in time for the September term. So far as we know, 500K users makes this the biggest single messaging and collaboration implementation in the world.

The pandemic is accelerating the adoption of Matrix

Coronavirus has forced the rapid adoption and widespread use of messaging and collaboration tools across government and the public sector. Initial solutions made best use of what was available but, with government privacy of the utmost importance, and decision-making accelerated, Element is also currently at proof of concept phase with several other European governments.

The development of Matrix began six years ago, in reaction to an increasingly centralised web that saw the web giants eroding consumers’ privacy in return for ‘free’ services. The growing realisation that the same centralised technology is chipping away at government data too, combined with increased online collaboration as a result of coronavirus, has already resulted in 2020 being the year that Europe adopted Matrix.

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