One year after announcing her intention to develop a European Cloud Computing Strategy, Europe's Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes this week made a first cash commitment to the initiative.
Following the announcement of the European Commission's plans for the Data Protection Directive, Kroes said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the time is right to look to the cloud to help Europe get to grips with its copyright and piracy problems. She also announced a European Cloud Partnership with €10 million initial funding.
Over the past year the commission has held talks with cloud providers, users and consumers to identify the main issues that need to be addressed.
"The results are clear," said Kroes. "Many still hesitate before the cloud. They worry: how do I know what service I am buying? Will my data be protected? Which providers can I trust? If I don't like what I am getting, can I switch providers easily? Or, if I really don't like what I'm getting, can I easily enforce the contract through legal action? "
The problems, Kroes said, are most acute for smaller companies. "They are the ones who stand to benefit the most from the cloud, but who don't have a lot of spending power, nor resources for individual negotiations with cloud suppliers," she said.
Kroes says she is determined to overcome these barriers through a European Cloud Partnership that will look at common requirements for cloud procurement and come up with standards that ensure security and competition.
"I expect good progress in setting it up in 2012 and first results in 2013," Kroes said.
Consumer advocacy group Digital Europe welcomed the announcement.
"Cloud computing has the potential to enable better public services for less cost," said John Higgins, Digital Europe Director General. "Widespread adoption in the public sector will drive awareness, trust and confidence in cloud services which in turn will be good for the European cloud services market."