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Home » Home Affairs, Policy

The European Cloud Computing Strategy

Submitted by on 27 Mar 2013 – 15:10

By Vice-President Neelie Kroes, Member of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda

There is no doubt that, today, Europe needs to modernise and boost growth. We must make the transition towards a low-carbon and resource-efficient economy; give businesses the environment for competitive success; and innovate to make the most out of new technological opportunities.

Cloud computing can do all three of these. It lowers barriers to entry, enables new innovative and creative business models, and boosts efficiency and flexibility: as companies not only save on upfront costs, but can adapt services to changing demand.

In fact a recent study[1] estimates that the cloud could contribute up to €250 billion a year to EU GDP in 2020. As long as we have the right policies in place: policies which build trust and certainty without creating new single market barriers.

Plus, the cloud can mean a greener Europe: as more efficient infrastructure and “green innovation” help cut ICT’s environmental footprint.

In short, the cloud can transform our economy: with the right support, I’m certain it will.

With such huge potential benefits, for providers and business users, for citizens and public authorities, we put forward last September a European Cloud Computing Strategy to drive the adoption of cloud services.

 

And I am quite clear that implementing that strategy is a priority for Europe’s Digital Agenda.

 

I want to see faster deployment and greater cloud use throughout Europe: to make Europe not just cloud-friendly, but cloud-active. We can do that principally by reducing fragmentation within the Digital Single Market; overcoming concerns over contractual relationships; greater interoperability; and boosting public procurement.

 

Here are three ways we are doing that.

 

First, cloud contracts need to be fully transparent and fair. Especially when it comes to data access and portability, protecting personal data, protecting against cyber attacks, or liabilities in case of damage.

 

So we will work with stakeholders to develop model contract terms and conditions for service level agreements—with a European approach that makes it easier to operate across the single market.

 

An expert group will identify “safe and fair” contractual terms and conditions, for consumers and small firms – for cloud-related issues that lie beyond the Common European Sales Law. Issues like how data is preserved after contracts end; data disclosure and integrity; data location and transfer; data ownership; and direct and indirect liability.

 

Finding consistent solutions here will build trust by individuals, and businesses small and large: ultimately stimulating the wider take up of cloud services.

 

Second, we will look at standards. Today, users (and would-be users) are confused by the proliferation of cloud standards. They find it hard to understand which standards are relevant, which are adequate, and whether cloud providers meet them. Voluntary certification schemes could also help. They could include measures for security, data protection, and safeguards for data transfers.

 

In working on those standards, we have good support from the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), which is looking at a detailed “map” of the necessary standards, including for security, interoperability, data portability and reversibility, and working openly with stakeholders to do so. We are also supported by the European Network and information Security Agency (ENISA).

 

ETSI kicked off this process last December in Cannes: including by brainstorming existing activities with standard-setting organisations, industry consortia, academia, governments, and more. Their mapping will continue in the spring, with wide participation both from the telecom and ICT industry. Once the preliminary map is ready, which should be by summer, we will be able to look at how to encourage further cloud standardisation.

 

Third, the European Cloud Partnership has already brought together public authorities with industry consortia; they are going to implement pre-commercial procurement to identify public sector cloud requirements, develop specifications for IT procurement, and procure reference implementations.

A number of participating countries have already started work and we have earmarked an initial budget of €10 million so they can join forces at European level – avoiding fragmentation and promoting cost-efficient, secure and interoperable clouds across Europe. With common definitions of requirements on the demand side, and in liaison with providers on the supply side, Europe can enjoy better public cloud procurement: indeed, eventually, it might go as far as joint procurement across borders. That won’t just stimulate the European cloud industry: it will also help the public sector offer effective services, at less taxpayer cost: something every public authority needs at the moment.

And indeed the first meeting of the Cloud Partnership’s Steering Board, chaired last November by Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, underlined once again that Europe urgently needs a solid architecture for cloud computing to grow faster.

 

Europe is well-placed to seize cloud benefits: with our public services, our many small and medium-sized businesses, and our excellence in the ICT and telecommunications sectors. The measures we are currently planning are just the first steps to help Europe stay ahead of the global game, as a connected, competitive continent.


[1] “Quantitative Estimates of the Demand for Cloud Computing in Europe and the Likely Barriers to Up-take”, IDC 2012, available online at http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/cloudcomputing/docs/quantitative_estimates.pdf.