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BSA: Consistent Regulation Will Ensure Global Cloud Computing Growth (UPDATED)

When it comes to policies that promote growth of cloud computing among the world's leading users of information technology, Japan comes out on top and the United States fourth, according to a report published this week by the Business Software Alliance.

But a lack of consistency in laws and economic polices among the 24 countries that account for 80 percent of the world's information and communications technology is putting the promise of a robust global cloud marketplace at risk, based on a BSA study that is the basis of its first Global Cloud Computing Scorecard (report .PDF here).

"In a global economy, you should be able to get the technology you need for personal or business use from cloud providers located anywhere in the world," said BSA President and CEO Robert Holleyman in a statement. "But that requires laws and regulations that let data flow easily across borders. Right now, too many countries have too many different rules standing in the way of the kind of trade in digital services we really need."

Japan ranked first based on its comprehensive privacy policies that don't interfere with commerce, strong IP protections and criminal enforcement, a strong IT infrastructure and its leadership in developing standards, according to the report. In addition to the U.S., Australia, France and Germany ranked in the top five. Developing nations Brazil, China and India were at the bottom of the list.

Though countries in Europe scored well, the BSA said the European Union's proposed Data Protection Regulation could hamper the growth of cloud computing.

The BSA pointed to seven areas that countries need to address in creating policies that will ensure the growth of cloud computing:

  • Privacy: Users need to be assured that their information won't be inappropriately used. Still, cloud providers need to be able to move data through the cloud efficiently.

  • Security: Cloud providers must ensure security of data without having specific technologies mandated.

  • Battling cybercrime: There must be adequate mechanisms for enforcement of laws and policies in place that enable cloud providers to contend with unauthorized access to data in the cloud.

  • IP protection: Surely the most controversial of the seven, IP laws must provide "clear protection and vigorous enforcement" against infringements enabled by the cloud, the BSA says.

  • Ensuring portability: Also sure to spark debate is the contention that governments should work with the industry to develop open standards that would enable interoperability, while at the same time putting legal requirements on cloud providers.

  • Free trade: Governments should foster an open marketplace that reduces barriers to free trade such as imposing preferences toward specific technologies or vendors.

  • Building IT infrastructure: Governments should provide incentives to cloud providers that promote widespread availability of broadband networks.

"Cloud computing is a technological paradigm that is certain to be a new engine of the global economy," according to the report. "Attaining those benefits will require governments around the world to establish the proper legal and regulatory framework to support cloud computing."

The BSA, backed by heavyweights such as Apple, Adobe, CA, Intel, Technologies, Microsoft, Quest Software and Symantec, now appear to be applying more pressure to lift barriers they see impeding the growth of cloud computing, particularly in developing nations.

Despite the merits of some of the BSA's end goals, some of its proposals, not surprisingly, won't sit well with opponents of regulation. On the other hand, the study puts an added spotlight on some prevailing issues such as interoperability, security and availability -- all legitimate obstacles to cloud computing adoption worldwide.

Political realities notwithstanding, providers in their own right have an interest in continuing their quest to address the existing barriers to cloud computing. The question is, which will make it happen faster -- more regulation or the status quo? And regardless of expediency, which approach will create the most suitable and sustainable cloud computing environments for consumers and business users?

Does the BSA's report appear to offer legitimate ammunition to lift barriers to cloud computing or does it look more like a heavy-handed effort to compel a more highly regulated environment? And even if the latter is the case, would such an outcome be more conducive to reducing the barriers to cloud computing adoption, or will those obstacles ultimately be lifted under the current environment? Drop me a line at [email protected] or leave a comment below.

UPDATE, 2/28: I received an e-mail  from BSA Technology Policy Counsel Chris Hopfensperger, who emphasized that the conclusion of BSA's report is not that it is looking to necessarily impose more regulation, but rather that existing regulations across the globe must not be in conflict with one another. Coordination of such regulations is paramount, as underscored at the beginning of this post.

"The central finding of BSA's Global Cloud Computing Scorecard is that an international patchwork of conflicting laws and regulations threatens to prevent the cloud from reaching truly global scale," Hopfensperger said. "To capture its full economic potential, BSA advocates harmonizing existing laws and regulations -- not necessarily piling on new ones. We would support new policies where no legal structure currently exists. Brazil is a good example of this. It is one of the few countries that has not adopted the Cybercrime Convention. You might argue that adopting it would mean more regulation, but our view is it would create a better business environment by establishing legal certainty that is more in keeping with international norms."

Hence, the revised headline of this post; I changed the original "More" to "Consistent."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/23/2012 at 1:14 PM


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