Neelie Kroes: Europe needs to embrace a cloud strategy, avoid national fortresses

26 Jun 2012

European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes

European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes has called for the creation of an EU-wide strategy for cloud computing that makes full use of the single market. She said it was important to avoid the creation of a tapestry of small clouds in smaller markets.

Speaking yesterday at the Economic Council Symposium ‘Cloud-Computing – Between Growth Opportunities and Privacy’ in Brussels, Belgium, Kroes said cloud computing could revolutionise public services while ensuring opportunities and recognition for innovators.

“Modern science depends on a huge amount of data: the cloud offers a fast and flexible way to store, process and share it,” Kroes explained.

“Even for scientists working in different disciplines or different countries, hundreds of kilometres apart. That’s why a number of prominent research centres, for example CERN and the European Space Agency, have teamed up to launch a massive cloud computing effort, Helix Nebula.”

Kroes said the cloud could provide an enormous boost to Europe’s economy. “In a country like Germany, some estimate that over five years, cloud computing could generate more than €200bn in economic benefits, and 800,000 jobs. That’s around €500 per German citizen per year.

“Plus there are savings to public authorities, too, useful at a time of strained public finances. The UK government expects to save 20pc on IT expenditure, by harmonising software with cloud computing.”

Kroes said a European strategy is vital in terms of leveraging economies of scale and the benefits of a single market.

“If we think small we won’t get them. If we take a national approach, content ourselves with small clouds stuck in small markets, if we lock data within old borders, then we are limiting our cloud ambition.

Borders will limit the cloud

“In a true digital single market, businesses and consumers can operate across the EU. Rules in the cloud should make it easy to do that, whether they’re rules on personal data, contractual arrangements, or whatever.

“Imagine you’re an SME looking to expand out of your home market. Or you’re an online purchaser – whether a person, a business or a government – looking to find the best deals across Europe. Or a scientific network looking to share data.

“In any case, walls and limits in the cloud will make your life harder. They mean losing critical mass in the cloud, and having to deal with 27 sets of rules, when you should have access to a seamless digital space.

“In short, to get the most cloud benefits, we must avoid national fortresses and think European,” Kroes said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years