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New cloud strategy aims to boost EU economy

Can cloud computing help save the European economy? During a press conference in Brussels, Neelie Kroes, vice president of the EU's digital agenda, talked up a new cloud strategy that she said could result in millions of new jobs and a 160 billion euro economic boost.

"Today we make Europe not just cloud-friendly, but cloud active," she said said in a statement. The cloud can provide more convenient, tailored, flexible - and most importantly - cheaper service, she said, with savings between 10-20 per cent of costs.

The cloud will also allow the government to better service the public with more integrated and effective services as a lower cost to taxpayers.

The EU's strategy for "unleashing the potential of cloud computing in Europe," as the commission dubbed it, includes identifying necessary standards for users by 2013, the development of "safe and fair" contract terms, and partnerships with member states and private companies.

"But that will only happen if we get the policies right," Kroes said today. "Without the right policies, the economic benefits will be just a fraction of that."

Cloud computing also relies on the understanding and trust of its users, many of whom believe it is too complicated and risky. Boosting confidence in these systems and removing barriers could have a huge economic impact, though, Kroes said.

"If we do remove them, virtually every company, 98 per cent of them, says they would increase or start investment in the cloud," she said.

How do you do that? Kroes laid out a three-pronged approach: standards and certification that will help consumers know which services to trust; contracts that clearly outline how a user's data is used; and public-private partnerships that will ensure more efficient e-government services.

"The single market is our crown jewel, cutting costs and boosting business," Kroes said. "A European cloud strategy gives our single market a new, digital home."

The nation is also taking action in related areas, already having proposed a single set of data protection rules for Europe. In the coming months, Kroes said, the EU will "also propose a European strategy for cyber security."

"Cloud computing is an opportunity our economy cannot miss," Kroes said. "Let's seize it, with an approach that is ambitious, effective, and European."