A “Cloud-Active” Europe, relatively speaking
At the recent Fuelling the European Economy event, Vice-President Kroes reiterated her belief that the flexibility and efficiency of cloud computing will ‘change our economies’, and she is determined to help resolve barriers to adoption to help Europe become ‘cloud-active’.
With the announcement of the European Cloud Partnership, focused on increasing public sector adoption of cloud technologies, Vice-President Kroes has taken the first concrete step towards forming a holistic and forward-looking EU Cloud Strategy that is expected to be finalized by mid-2012. This momentum at the EU level is encouraging.
Also encouraging is the level of activity in the Member States. In terms of government policy and strategy, some countries and regions are very active, although some are less so. The timing of the EU Cloud Strategy this year is useful as an opportunity to assess the state of activity around the Union, to learn from some Member States and to stimulate others, and to identify those policy aspects where joint action is most helpful.
One session at the Fueling the European Economy event featured speakers from Austria, the UK, and the Walloon Region of Belgium, where national and regional governments have formulated cloud-active strategies. Using cloud technologies to save money, to improve efficiency and agility, and to stimulate economic growth were common themes, and the different speakers outlined the various tactics they had developed to achieve such goals. While these three are at different stages of implementation of their strategies, they have all made the policy determination to move actively and dedicate resources to this effort.
The UK G-Cloud is certainly the best known member state policy. It adopts a ‘public cloud first’ approach, in essence ‘cloud by default’, while recognizing that this will not be possible in every case. The G-Cloud strategy is well presented and makes specific projections of savings over the coming years.
In Belgium, the Walloon Region integrates cloud technologies throughout its ‘Master plan for ICT’, part of its Creative Wallonia programme, which outlines pilot projects, infrastructure investments, access at favorable rates for ‘early adopters’, the encouragement of new ways of working (e.g. teleworking) and the use of cloud computing for e-health applications. The Plan’s clearly defined deadlines and objectives illustrate a relatively faster approach towards policy implementation than the deliberative measures of Austria, which looks to identify at least some of the common definitions, standards and criteria before diving into implementation. A study by the E-Government Innovation Centrum published in 2011 looked at exactly those aspects.
Learning from experiences and exchanging thoughts about policy planning is always a useful exercise, and we plan an additional roundtable on this topic in April, with different Member State and regional representatives. Raising awareness about the various levels of cloud activity will hopefully stimulate more action.
Different policy strategies promoting technology adoption, including related education and skills training, is sometimes a matter of healthy competition among Member States to attract investment, leading to higher levels of activity overall. Different approaches towards regulation can, however, slow others down and deny EU businesses and users the benefits and efficiencies of cloud computing. For this reason it is extremely important that Vice-President Kroes has also emphasized, in connection with the EU strategy, that ‘we will make it easier to operate Clouds both within and outside our Single Market.’
In the meantime, it is also useful to view the actual adoption of cloud technologies, especially by public sector administrations but other users as well. We try to provide instructive case studies on this site, and will continue to update this library of material.