Neelie Kroes, the European commissioner for the digital agenda, today put forward an action plan for the development of cloud computing, and said that it could increase the European Union’s gross domestic product by 1%.
Kroes outlined ways in which she wants to make it easier for companies and the public sector to make use of the ‘cloud’ and to increase people’s confidence in the technology.
The European Commission is keen to set the ground rules for cloud computing – the practice of storing photographs, videos, music and other data remotely, in the ‘cloud’ – because it sees great economic benefits.
The plan was generally welcomed by the computer industry but condemned by consumer groups.
In her strategy ‘Unleashing the potential of cloud computing in Europe’, Kroes said that if all her proposals were followed through, it would create 2.5 million jobs in the EU and boost the economy by €160 billion a year.
“Through developing standard contract terms, making it easy to take your data from one provider to the other, and certificates so you know which cloud providers you can trust, we can cut through the uncertainty and get right to the brilliant benefits that lie in the cloud,” Kroes said.
She described cloud computing as a “game-changer” for the European economy. “Without EU action, we will stay stuck in national fortresses and miss out on billions in economic gains,” she said.
Kroes said that, as part of the strategy, she wanted to “cut through the jungle of technical standards so that cloud users get interoperability, data portability and reversibility”, with the necessary standards identified by 2013.
She wants to set up EU-wide certification schemes for trustworthy cloud providers and develop ‘safe and fair’ contract terms for cloud computing contracts.
Monique Goyens, the director-general of BEUC, the European consumer organisation, said that the strategy “lacks the ambition to properly protect European consumers and solve key issues such as data protection, copyright and contract conditions”.
She added: “Allowing businesses themselves to choose whether to safeguard consumer rights, as has been proposed here by ‘optional regulation’, is extremely risky and leaves consumers vulnerable to unfair contract terms.”
John Higgins, the director-general of DigitalEurope, which represents technology companies including cloud providers, said he wanted to “congratulate” Kroes.
“I agree that cloud computing can bring real benefits to Europe’s businesses, public services and citizens,” he said.
“I also welcome moves to boost jobs and growth in Europe for the cloud service provider community.”
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