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A Cloud Computing Strategy for Europe

Submitted by on 09 Mar 2012 – 15:48

By Commissioner Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission Responsible for the Digital Agenda

Cloud Computing is one of the welcome developments sprouting from an ever-growing Internet. However, it also raises some issues for citizens and businesses. To take full advantage of the Cloud’s potential, while protecting our citizens’ interests, Europe needs a Cloud-friendly legal framework, and a Cloud-active community of providers and users.

Because if we can build trust for this new technology in the market place, growth and jobs will follow.

The Commission’s Cloud Computing Strategy for Europe will look at the following three main areas:

1. The Single Policy Area for Cloud Computing

In terms of policy, Cloud Computing and the future evolutions of the Internet need to be treated in a coherent way. The European Cloud Computing Strategy needs to be a framework to manage related fields more efficiently, coherently and transparently.

Because success in the Cloud relies on linking up a number of different areas. We need data protection laws that are clear, consistent, and show a passable way forward into the Cloud – including when the Cloud crosses borders to places with lesser levels of protection. We need to offer legal clarity on issues like contractual terms, liability insurance and how to recover data if a provider ceases to operate. We need to offer consistency in consumer and user rights across Europe, so that users know what they are in for and providers don’t have to deal with the burden of 27 separate sets of rules. We need to make sure we have the skills and human capital for our continent to embrace the Cloud. And we need to see how we can reduce the environmental footprint – for example through more efficient data centres and networks.

If we get this right, we can ensure laws and regulations fit the technological reality and development. That would benefit both providers, and users.

But this also means taking policy areas previously considered unrelated or fragmented and joining them up; it means making regulatory decisions more predictable so investors aren’t put off; it means a more homogenous set of rules internationally and it means an active and innovative community out there developing and deploying Cloud Computing in Europe.

2. The European Cloud Partnership

The public sector in Europe can become a lead market in demand for Cloud Computing. I have taken the first steps to set up a European Cloud Partnership. The purpose of this Partnership between the Commission, public authorities and industry is to start formalising the common public sector requirements for Clouds: across Member States, across regions, and across the many different applications like eHealth, tax administration and welfare payments. Building on this, the public sector will benefit from simpler procurement of Cloud services. It should also provide an important step towards coordinated and ultimately joint procurement across administrative borders. Let’s face it: each EU Member State, on its own, is too small (and has too small an IT procurement budget) to make much of a difference globally, in this as in so many other fields. But together we pull a lot of weight. This should lead to reduced costs for governments who need to deliver efficient and interoperable on-line services.

3. Measures to Stimulate and Amplify

Lastly, I am also working on a package of measures to stimulate, amplify and reinforce the effect of the above initiatives on the Cloud.

First, to support education and awareness about legal issues: standards, model contracts, data portability and so on. Second, by coordinating industrial and social policies, we can help equip people with the skills for a broader career and job mobility. This should provide the well-educated workforce that the industry needs. And third, we must support European and national research and innovation, to help industry build a critical mass of know-how so that current applications can migrate to the Cloud, helping competitiveness and giving a boost to innovative new services.

We need to act to unlock the economic growth potential of Cloud Computing for the benefit of citizens and businesses alike. We cannot afford for either providers or users to lose out. That is what the European Cloud Computing Strategy must achieve and we will start “at home”, in the public sector, to deliver a market for providers, demonstrate the advantages to users, and ensure that standards and templates are available to further develop this growing and dynamic market.