The European Cloud Partnership was launched in November 2012.
What is the problem?
The public sector across Europe, in order to fulfil its obligations to its community, citizens and businesses, is a major procurer of IT systems. Using cloud computing, these public services could be offered with more flexibility and better adapted to actual and evolving needs, while at the same time keeping costs down by exploiting economies of scale offered by cloud computing. Unfortunately, despite the clear potential benefits, there appear to be many barriers for moving to the cloud, such as fragmentation of markets, contractual problems, risk of lock-in, data control and protection issues etc.
Why is EU action required?
The public sector across Europe needs to be empowered to reap the many potential benefits of moving to the cloud, while avoiding the potential pitfalls. By joining forces, public sector organisations will not only be able to keep and improve their level of service, but also to become more cost-effective. Furthermore, by using their collective procurement weight and exchanging experiences and best practises public sector organisations can play a significant role in forging a clear and secure framework for cloud adoption across Europe. Take-up of cloud by public procurers will spill-over to many other cloud users, including SMEs, and will stimulate the market toward a truly digital single market for IT services across Europe.
What has the Commission done so far?
According to Key action 3 of the cloud computing communication [COM(2012)529], the European Cloud Partnership was established. It contains two major components.
On the initiative of VP Kroes a cloud Steering Board was set up with 20 high-level decision makers from IT and telecom industry and national IT policy making. They had their first meeting on November 19, 2012. Priorities were identified and agreed on; these are currently being elaborated and will result in specific cloud computing lighthouse activities in areas of trust, service level agreements, contracts, software and security. A second SB meeting was held on 4 July 2013 in Tallinn, Estonia, and a draft cloud charter for discussion was prepared. The discussions recognised the urgent need to develop a trustworthy and secure cloud space in Europe, allowing data to reside anywhere as a way towards single market. This view was strenghtened in the conclusions of the European Council. At the third SB meeting on 14 November 2013 in Berlin three working groups were set up, one looking at cloud barriers in the public sector, another focusing on the private sector, and a third identifying short-term cloud uptake activities. The work of these groups is currently fastly progressing and formal recommendations are expected around the summer of 2014.
In 2012 a call for proposals was published to invite public sector organisations across Europe to join forces to prepare for the procurement of cloud computing services using the mechanism of pre-commercial procurement. Member States responded positively to this call in 2013, and provided a proposal for joint pre-commercial cloud activities. This proposal was succesfully negotiated and the resulting initiative "Cloud-for-Europe" (C4E) kicked-off on 1 July 2013. C4E organised a major public launch event on 4-5 July in Berlin. The work has now entered wider consultations and the preparation of the call-for-tender for the pre-commercial procurement (PCP) is progressing. The PCP is scheduled to kick-off around mid-2014.
What will the Commission do next?
Following the successful set-up of the European Cloud Partnership, the Commission has proposed actions to further expansed, widen and deepen the pre-commercial cloud computing activities for the public sector in Europe. This will allow more Member States to join this work and to address additional areas of public procurement where pre-commercial procurement could be mutually beneficial. These activities have been taken on board in the Horizon 2020 Workprogramme of 2014-15 and will be implemented thorugh an open call for proposals in 2014 (for pre-commercial procurement and public procurment of innovation activities).
The Commission has published recently a study on the "Analysis of cloud best practices and pilots for the public sector". The study sheds more light on the implementation of cloud projects in ten Member States, as well as provides pilots in areas where there has been little or no up-take of cloud. The study report is available here.