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Social impact of cloud computing must be considered, say regions

The Committee of the Regions is supportive of cloud computing to boost economic growth, but has said that potentially negative effects should also be considered, according to a report by a committee member.

The risks and opportunities of cloud computing were highlighted an opinion written by Hungarian rapporteur Gabor Bihary, who represents the Party of European Socialists in the Committee of the Regions. His concerns will be addressed at a committee plenary session on 11 April in Brussels. 

Cloud computing means data is stored remotely so that users can access it from any location, if they have internet access. It is thought to be a faster and more secure form of computing than hard-disk storage, and its proponents say that it could improve efficiency in businesses and other organisations, leading to economic benefits.

One major concern, however, raised in Bihary’s report, is that places in Europe with more limited access to the internet would not feel the benefits from cloud computing. Another issue is that consumers need to be educated about what cloud computing is and how it should be used. Consumers need to understand the risks associated with the technology, the report says.

“A few years ago many argued that cloud computing was nothing more than a project dreamed up by head-in-the-clouds IT nerds,” Bihary said. “Effectively developing an IT culture and education to raise consumer awareness [of cloud computing] is a key issue. It is equally vital that the proposed standardisation process be based on an appropriate regulatory and organisational framework.”

Bihary’s report stresses that it needs to be made clearer which organisations or branches of government would be responsible for setting and enforcing standards, and whether regulations should be defined at member state or EU level. Issues about data protection and copyright also need to be addressed, it says.

The report was drawn up in response to a European Commission strategy, published in September 2012, for promoting the use of cloud computing in Europe.