Pressure mounts on EU cloud deal as deadline looms
By Benjamin Fox
The European Commission is under pressure to keep to its self-imposed September deadline to publish an EU cloud computing strategy, as new evidence revealed widespread public confusion about it.
Figures collected by opinion pollsters Ipsos for the Business Software Alliance (BSA), an IT lobby group, indicate that most Europeans regularly use cloud technologies but are unaware that they are doing so.
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A mere 24 percent said that they used cloud computing, with Greece and Romania topping the poll at 39 percent. Meanwhile 65 percent of PC users admitted that they had either never heard of cloud computing or had only heard of the name.
However, four in five European's regularly use email services, the most commonly-used cloud service, with more than one in three regularly playing online games and using photo storage devices like Dropbox.
In February, Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes told the World Economic Forum that cloud computing would deliver “secure services for greater efficiency, greater flexibility, and lower cost," unveiling a €10 million public/private deal on cloud public procurement. She also pledged to produce EU cloud proposals by July although internal disagreements within the EU executive saw the delivery date pushed back to September.
Meanwhile, the progress of cloud-related legislation has also been slower than expected.
Regulating the use of cloud computing data is part of the EU's revamped data protection laws initiated by Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding in January. The parliament has yet to produce a draft report on the dossier, with commission sources conceding that the data package is unlikely to be agreed before 2014, taking it perilously close to the next European elections when all unfinished legislation is scrapped.
Supporters of cloud services claim that it offers large potential savings to businesses and governments by allowing them to store huge amounts of data cheaply and easily accessible.
Research published by the International Data Corporation in August found that revenue from public IT cloud services exceeded $21.5 billion (€17bn) in 2010 and will reach $72.9 billion (€58bn) in 2015, representing an annual growth rate of 27.6%, more than four times the projected growth for the worldwide IT market as a whole (6.7%).
Meanwhile, the personal data already held in clouds is already estimated at €75 billion and expected to increase further.
Despite this, the technology sets new regulatory challenges for policy-makers. The volume of information stored, as well as the mobility of cloud data, puts extra strain on international data protection measures to police data processing and protect personal information.
Thomas Boue, BSA’s Director of Government Affairs, said the “the EU should make cloud computing an immediate concern for all dossiers affecting its development.”
Describing the keenly-awaited EU cloud strategy as “a welcome step in the right direction” he added that legislators should take “the opportunity to promote the full potential of cloud computing in Europe.”