EU: Cloud will create 2.5m jobs – if our strategy works

Cloud computing could add €600 billion to the GDP of the European Union – or 2.5 million extra jobs – by 2020, a new strategy paper from the European Commission claims.

However, the economic gains – delivered through increased operational efficiencies for European businesses and governments – would be just a third as much if the EC’s policy recommendations are not enacted, the paper argues.

Those recommendations include the creation of a ‘Single Digital Market’ – i.e. harmonising data protection and copyright laws across EU member states – and adapting contract law to clarify responsibility for e.g. data protection in cloud engagements.

It also calls for improved interoperability standards across cloud providers. “A wider use of standards, the certification of cloud services to show they meet these standards and the endorsement of such certificates by regulatory authorities as indicating compliance with legal obligations will help cloud take-off.”

The EU plans to improve cloud standards by tasking the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) “to coordinate with stakeholders … to identify by 2013 a detailed map of the necessary standards”; to develop EU-level technical specifications and voluntary certification schemes for cloud providers; and “agreeing… harmonised metrics for the energy consumption {etc.] of cloud services by 2014.

Writing in response to the EU paper, CSC Leading Edge Forum researcher Simon Wardley wrote that a standards initiative driven by government is not without risks.

“We want to apply more centralised legislative frameworks with concerns over areas such as security?” Wardley wrote on his blog. “This feels like it could be a repeat of how the radio spectrum was divided up due to security concerns for the benefit of a few companies but in the process managed to destroy a much wider ecosystem.”

Wardley wrote that if the EU pushes for open standards “of the de facto” – i.e. based on what the industry is already using – “then this would seem to be a step in the right direction”.

“However, if it becomes a slice and dice of the industry through certification, approved providers etc. then it’s not so good.”

“My view on this is 50/50,” he concluded. “In some parts it is probably uncessary and if badly handled then potentially downright dangerous.”

Whether cloud computing will create jobs is a much-debated question. For people working in IT, it seems clear that reducing internal IT infrastructure will lead to a reduction in IT jobs. Others, including Wardley, argue that as IT services become cheaper and easier to consume, usage will increase driving growth in IT work.

As for the prediction that the operational efficiencies afforded by cloud computing will drive businesses and governments to be more productive, and therefore increase GDP, this rests on a number of assumptions about the link between IT use and productivity that are largely unproven.

Cloud may be cheaper (although this too is questionable), but that does mean businesses will be any better at using it to drive growth than traditional IT.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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