Yesterday, the Commission announced that its plans to create a European Cloud. Yes, you guessed it right. The Commission is now in the business of cloud computing. Cloud computing is a useful, interesting and innovative technology. I use cloud services myself, on a daily basis. It is a great business idea. But this is not the type of issue into which the Commission should be poking its nose and risk taxpayers’ money.
Initially the EU cloud will serve science. European researchers and their international collaborators will be able to share scientific data and results. But the plan does not end there. By 2020, the Commission plans to develop a European data storage and network infrastructure. The project’s estimated cost: 6.7 billion euros. At least two of those billions will be taken straight from the EU budget.
The Commission argues that its brand new initiative will promote the data-driven economy and make the EU a world leader in the area. If we take a look at the Commission’s track record, however, it is quite poor. Recently, the European Parliament passed a new data protection regulation that will restrain innovation rather than promoting it. In short, the regulation has a perspective on data flows that is outdated even before it will come into effect.
An even more discouraging example is Galileo, the Commission’s project to create a navigation system that could compete with America’s GPS and Russia’s Glonass in the late 1990s. If you have never heard about Galileo, that is because it has not been successful. The system is not predicted to become operational until after 2020. And the initial cost estimate of a few billion euro has increased to over 20 billion euro.
Cloud computing is best left to private entrepreneurs and providers. And if there is a need for inter-institutional sharing of information via a cloud, for example between two European universities, there are many excellent options available: Google Drive, DropBox and OneDrive are only a few examples. The Commission should instead focus on measures that create a favorable business climate for entrepreneurs and innovators. But so far, that has not quite been the case.
Let us just hope that the European Open Science Cloud does not turn into yet another Galileo project.