16 January 2013
EU blueprint for cloud computing falls short
While EU plans rightly aim to boost the use of cloud computing (CC), they fail to spur the development of cloud services and the emergence of European cloud computing infrastructure, warned the European Economic and Social Committee in an opinion it adopted at today's plenary session.
In its opinion, the EESC assesses the European Commission's recent Communication on "Unleashing the potential of cloud computing in Europe", and puts forward an alternative, three-legged strategy, i.e. expand the use of the cloud, develop cloud-based software, and build CC in Europe.
The EU's goals for CC should go beyond simply promoting its uptake. "They should help businesses and public administrations to become 'cloud active' by offering cloud-based services and make Europe 'cloud productive' by providing cloud infrastructure", said Eric Pigal (Workers Group, France), rapporteur for the opinion.
The EESC believes that meeting these objectives will lead to the development of "European digital energy production". Failure to do so will result in Europe's growing dependence on foreign providers. Mr Pigal points out that "digital energy, like other energy sources such as oil or gas, is an economic and strategic challenge".
To promote the use of cloud, the EESC has backed the Commission's suggestion to do away with the plethora of technical standards and create EU-wide certification schemes for cloud service providers. It has also come out in favour of drafting model conditions for CC contracts in service level agreements and developing cloud-based public sectors.
It nevertheless deplores the lack of concrete awareness-raising measures and warns against excluding the most vulnerable. "The Commission should prioritise users with the lowest awareness and show SMEs how they can benefit from CC", said Mr Pigal.
Yet the promotion of cloud use will not automatically lead to the development of cloud-based services and cloud infrastructure. The EESC argues that special incentives are needed to bring this about. "Under current market conditions, expanding the use of the cloud in Europe will inevitably strengthen non-European operators", said Mr Pigal.
Deeply concerned about the oligopoly in the CC market and the dominance of non-European operators, he called on the EU to make sure that European operators benefit from the promotion of cloud use and that it allows them to develop. It points to stringent data protection standards in Europe and European consumer preference for local suppliers as conditions that favour the emergence of EU-based operators.
Aware of the difficulties users face in disputes with suppliers in other countries, the Committee suggests an online dispute resolution scheme modelled on one that has been well tested in the equally globalised and international context of e-commerce. "Since it has to be independent and impartial, this mediation could be entrusted to an existing or a new European agency. Its expertise and knowledge of recurring problems could further be used to adjust practices and regulations", said Mr Pigal.
To achieve the objectives set out in its opinion, the EESC suggests targeted EU financing and national subsidies as well as kick starting European projects through competitive bidding.
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