United Clouds of Europe

If Europe doesn't want to roll over and concede the business potential of the lucrative future cloud computing market to the US, it's time to act collectively and decisively.

Cloud computing is the name given to the provision of IT resources from virtual server architectures in the internet. In the US cloud computing has long since established itself as an economic driving force. US online giants Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have been specifically focusing on the saving of data and software in the cloud for a long time and offering their customers cheap and simple access solutions and IT applications on cloud platforms. With generously dimensioned, countrywide on-demand infrastructure and services the US has once again put itself in pole position for global IT business.

If Europe doesn't want to throw in the towel and concede the whole business potential of a lucrative future market to the US, as in the past with the computer and automobile industry, it's time to act collectively and decisively. Only with an extensive action plan can the "old" continent not only strengthen its global competitiveness on the basis of innovative information technologies but also upgrade its highly developed industries and thereby secure jobs and wealth.

Just a few decades ago Europe's computer industry was bursting with multinational variety. Today virtually nothing is left from the once strong brands of Olivetti or Bull etc. The Americans, in contrast, have taken over the world market with Microsoft, Apple and Hewlett Packard. Europe has only managed establish a powerful alternative to US industry in air and space travel with Airbus Industries and Arianespace through cross-country co-production.

Following the same pattern the US has also perfectly moved itself into pole position in the IT industry currently being revolutionised by cloud services - not only technologically but also through the politically facilitated general conditions.

At the start of the year US President Barack Obama gave the green light for the extension of the "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act" (FISA) which enables US intelligence services to access all data from non US citizens saved on the large, global databases, without the knowledge or consent of the data owner and without judicial approval.

Establishing a European-wide cloud market

Europe therefore needs a powerful action plan to achieve a fundamental consensus between European cloud companies. The call for "United Clouds of Europe" is closely aligned to the "European Cloud Strategy" as part of the European 2020 initiative "Digital Agenda for Europe". With this strategy the European single market should be revamped into the most competitive ICT market in the world by 2020 on the basis of ultra-quick internet connections..

EU Commission demands "European" thinking

The Vice President of the European Commission Neelie Kroes responsible for this initiative called for "European thinking" in order to fully exploit the multi-billion Euro potential and millions of jobs that cloud computing could bring to Europe. A European approach needs three main steps: Firstly, consistent standards and certificates for the comparison of cloud services by customers. Secondly, secure and fair contracts in which the nature of data usage and the responsibility for data ownership and data saving are clearly defined. And thirdly, the establishing of a European cloud partnership through which the cloud market can be collectively pushed.

European IT companies and the EU Commission must therefore quickly embed a continent-wide action plan into a collective European strategy and to implement this consistently. Because without "United Clouds of Europe" Europe's economic standing will continue to fall behind.

Europe needs certified minimum quality standards for infrastructure, data security and data protection. Furthermore, cloud service users must have assurance that their data in the cloud is saved by European cloud providers in European data centres. Uniform license agreements should achieve additional legal security. The source codes for cloud services should also lie exclusively in Europe.

For European-wide usage, providers should also ensure that their offerings are multilingual and accessible. Moreover, the best possible protection of digital identities, search functions across all "United Cloud Services of Europe" as well as collective standards for support, monitoring of user experiences and reporting on the success of the package of measures need to be included.

But the decisive factor will lie in an unrestricted openness to new technology. Only with the standards-based interoperability of cloud services with single-sign-on and the support of all relevant platforms, mobile end devices and standardised content formats can a large collective market be established for this future technology.

Cloud computing as a chance for Europe's economy

Cloud computing is a chance that our European economy cannot afford to miss in the global fight for market share and the development of innovative technology. Only an ambitious, effective and collective push can lead Europe to success.

Published in "Wirtschaftsblatt" (Austrian financial newspaper) on May 15, 2013