for Digital Agenda
Neelie Kroes is a Dutch politician and businessperson. In 1971 she was elected to the lower house of parliament, where she became spokesperson for education. In 1977 she became junior minister of Transportation and Water Management, responsible for Postal and Telephone Services and Transportation. In 1981 she briefly returned to the lower house of parliament, while her party was in opposition. In 1982 she returned to office as the minister for Transportation and Water Management, a post that she held until 1989. As a minister she was responsible for the privatization of the Post and Telephone Services. After her time as minister, Ms Kroes became a member of the Rotterdam Chamber of Commerce and served as a board member for Ballast Nedam (shipping), ABP-PGGM (a pension fund), NIB (an investment bank), McDonald’s Netherlands, Nedlloyd, and Nederlandse Spoorwegen (the privatized Dutch railroad company). In 1991 she became chairperson of Nyenrode University, a private business school.
In 2004 Neelie Kroes was appointed European Commissioner for Competition. Since February 2010 Neelie Kroes is Vice President responsible for the Digital Agenda at the European Commission.
Cloud computing is not a new technology. It is a different way of providing computing power to users. Cloud computing has the potential to transform the way we use computers but there are still a number of important problems to be solved. Three areas of great concern in Europe are interoperability, data portability and privacy. These are addressed in the Cloud Computing Strategy for Europe which aims to improve the lives of the European Digital Citizen and help to make every European digital.
As Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe, my mission is to give every European the chance to participate fully in the exciting digital future. There is an Internet of Opportunities waiting to be explored. One of the wonderful things about my job is that I can meet and talk with so many of the interesting people who are busy building our future. Many of them are young people – some of them, very young – and they have their own, new ideas about how they want to use information and communication technology and the way they want to live. And that includes ideas about how they want to run businesses.
Cloud computing is an area where new ideas, new opportunities and new challenges are vast. The cloud is the next step towards providing computing power like a real utility.
It is not a new technology. It is a different way of providing computing power to users. Think about electricity. Electrical power in one source could only service a limited area; however its distribution from a central point through cables to factories and workplaces had an enormous impact on the economy. So it is with cloud computing. Large amounts of computer power are available in data centres that are accessed as and when required through smaller, cheaper devices. This is good for consumers and good for businesses that don’t need to invest in large capacity IT infrastructure and management that they don’t always need, and thus save costs. It is also better for the environment because computer use is concentrated (no need for each user to plan and provide for peak use capacity) and because a few very large data centres can be operated and cooled more efficiently than a lot of smaller ones.
Benefits for SMEs
The future of the economy is increasingly digital. Cloud computing is the latest step in the development of the Internet and the web of services and it is a step which brings potential benefits for European companies. In Europe, we have a large number of innovative and dynamic software SMEs, which will use cloud computing to develop services. For those SMEs which are limited by the computing power they can currently afford, cloud computing will offer a way to reach larger markets or give better service. Cloud computing will enable these companies to expand and break out of their home market.
A study performed by the UK’s Centre for Economics and Business Research which examined the five biggest economies in Europe recently argued that cloud computing is a significant boost to the economy and estimated that it could create 2.3 million net new jobs directly and indirectly over five years.
European users will be attracted to the benefits of the cloud. It is our responsibility to ensure that there is a clear framework in Europe providing certainty for both suppliers and users. While the opportunities are clear, there is much to be done before Europe can take them up and make the best use of them. As with the exploitation of any strategic resource, cloud computing too requires a strategy.
Cloud computing has the potential to transform the way we use computers but there are still a number of important problems to be solved before this happens in practice. I will just mention three that are of great concern in Europe: interoperability, data portability and privacy.
Interoperability between cloud systems and data portability are issues we need to take very seriously. The cloud moves us towards utility computing. In a truly competitive digital single market, users must be able to change their cloud provider easily. If someone comes along with a better offer, a user should not encounter technical or legal barriers in moving to a new supplier. In other words: interoperability and data portability are essential for the cloud to be fair, open and competitive. In Europe we value highly our privacy and the right to protect our personal data. In recent years, Europe has developed one of the most effective regulations on personal data, increasing the protection of individuals and of their right to privacy. As international data transfers are often part of cloud computing scenarios, we must ensure that they can take place without putting European achievements in data protection in jeopardy. We want cloud providers to protect personal data efficiently, in a transparent manner, and in line with EU personal data standards.
A cloud computing strategy for Europe
To take full advantage of the benefits of cloud computing, individuals and businesses must have full confidence and trust in the cloud.
I announced during the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2011 that I would launch a ‘Cloud Computing Strategy for Europe’, starting with a broad consultation of industry and users in 2011. There are quite a number of points on which we need to consult. This is a sample with which we could begin.
In the first place there is the question of what rules should apply to data, particularly personal data in widely distributed computing systems like clouds. How should data be allowed to move between jurisdictions? Closely related to this, we need to make clear to people using e-Commerce services what rights and responsibilities apply in cross-border situations.
The Member States of the EU are also active in cloud developments and I will discuss with them how to converge on common policies for issues such as security or data protection that concern many citizens. I think we should have some common standards that apply here.
Standards are also needed to ensure portability of data and interoperability of services. Those standards should be open so that all suppliers can implement them.
Cloud computing can help us develop the digital single market. We should see how e-Government services can help build that market and stimulate SMEs to come in as suppliers of services.
Although cloud computing is a general tool for all users, it may be that European strengths can positively impact deployment in Europe. I am thinking here of business applications with mobile access through cloud services. We need to understand the consequences for our telecommunications and access networks.
Then there is the use of public research and innovation funding. I doubt that currently available commercial cloud systems have reached the limit of their development. Certainly, they do not yet meet all European users’ expectation. We can see if we can build the future cloud computing systems in Europe.
We must use the tools to hand in order to make the EU legal framework for this sort of technology “cloud-friendly” and industry “cloud-active”. That means that citizens, businesses and suppliers must be able to understand clearly their rights and responsibilities. I want to make sure that our Cloud Computing Strategy improves the lives of the European Digital Citizen and helps to make every European digital.
The Digital Agenda will deliver: cloud computing, fit for purpose in Europe.