Today, information technology is the essential technical foundation of all economic sectors. The US has been dominating this market for several decades now, and, with the advent of new data storage and deployment models such as cloud computing, it has recently managed to expand its full supremacy. As a result, the major part of the global Internet infrastructure runs together in the US. On a global scale, American IT giants have the majority of the hard- and software for network based services and electronic data processing in their hands. The US is miles ahead of Europe in terms of low-cost data storage on cloud platforms that allows customers a simple access to all imaginable IT applications.
This undisputed leadership of the US represents a serious danger to Europe as a business location. With the disappearance of own renowned IT brands and with the almost uncontested surrender of the currently most lucrative future business called cloud computing, the unrivalled leadership of the US continues to grow unchecked. Beside the fatal consequences for the development of other European industry segments, the monopoly position of the US has serious effects also on democratic achievements such as private sphere- or data protection.
The recent news about the huge spying and espionage operation against European companies and citizens carried out by US secret agencies such as the NSA have raised awareness of Europe’s loss of IT sovereignty in a different context. As Edward Snowden has shown, almost all personal data of European citizens, as well as secret transactions of European companies have been systematically spied out by US security institutions for years.
From Europe’s point of view it’s now really time to act – and in a double sense! Only with a common IT strategy can Europe win back its lost territory. With the 2020 Initiative “Digital Agenda for Europe” the European Union has shaped a clear strategy against the on-going shortfalls in the IT sector. Under this umbrella high-speed internet connections, i.e. an own IT infrastructure should be established. Moreover, the future fields of this “economic artery” should be intensively processed in Research & Development.
Cloud providers with European added value
From an infrastructural point of view we need a “United Clouds of Europe”, a continent-wide, common platform to store and provide electronic data from shared and virtual server landscapes. This includes the technical specification and standardization, as well as the secure and shared contract- and procedural rules regarding data usage, data storage and the ownership of outsourced data. It is of particular importance that cloud providers store customer data only in European data centres and provide high security standards to protect digital identities. With accompanying legal measures that precisely regulate the disclosure of customer data to third parties such as investigating authorities, it would be possible to stop data piracy and arbitrary data abuse once and for all. With technical open-mindedness and interoperability, the European cloud market will take shape in the future and the competitiveness of the European IT industry will get back on track. In this scenario the provision of IT services in the cloud will play a key role in the next years. The Commission assumes that the potential of cloud computing is around several hundred billion Euros, and the paradigm shift from client-server architectures to cloud computing environments would create millions of new jobs in every economic sector. Only with a clear strategy to regain autonomy in the IT field, and with the required own cloud computing resources can we prevent the situation from becoming worse. But if the countries of the European Union pull in the same direction, I am convinced that by 2020 our continent will make a comeback to the stage of global economy.
“United Clouds of Europe” is the dictate of the hour!