The European Union must do more to harness the
economic potential of cloud computing, the European Commission said
Thursday, in a bid to create more than 2 million jobs and avoid
falling behind other parts of the world.
The technology, in which data is stored remotely, has prompted fears regarding data security and uncertainty over the applicability of national laws on data stored in third countries.
"We must tackle the perceived risks of cloud computing head-on," said EU Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes.
She described cloud computing as a "game-changer" for the 27-member bloc's economy. The commission estimated that its proposals could help generate 2.5 million jobs and annual gains of 160 billion euros by 2020.
Experts consider cloud computing to be one of the fastest-growing sectors in digital technology, but Europe risks falling behind the US by failing to keep up with developments.
"Without EU action, we will stay stuck in national fortresses and miss out on billions in economic gains," Kroes said. "We must achieve critical mass and a single set of rules across Europe."
Cloud computing, a technology used by services such as Facebook and web-based email providers, involves the storage of data and software on remote computers that are accessed via the internet, reducing business costs and increasing flexibility.
The commission's strategy calls for: the identification by 2013 of areas requiring common standards; support for certification schemes to build trust; the development of model contract terms for cloud computing; and cooperation between EU industry and member states to achieve economies of scale.
However, the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) said the measures did not go far enough.
"This strategy lacks the ambition to properly protect European consumers and solve key issues such as data protection, copyright and contract conditions," said BEUC director Monique Goyens.
The proposals did not fully address differences in national laws or existing copyright issues, Goyens said, calling for pan-European content licencing as well as stronger measures to enforce legislation.
Microsoft, on the other hand, welcomed the move, noting the potential of cloud computing to boost jobs and growth in times of austerity.
"The strategy provides a framework for further harmonization, clarity and assurances businesses need to move to the cloud and bring growth and technological innovation to Europe," said Stephen Collins of Microsoft.
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