Gaia-X: the Europe of tech is on the move

The Gaia-X project aims to accelerate the emergence of the data economy in Europe. Bringing together more than 200 companies, the initiative aims to create an open digital ecosystem on a European scale. A chance for Europeans and their digital sovereignty.

Officially launched last September, the Gaia-X initiative aims to create a European digital infrastructure that is both reliable and sovereign. Its 22 founding members, joined by more than 200 other organizations, aim to create an environment in which data can be shared and stored under the control of its owners and users. Gaia-X is one of the very first building blocks aiming to build not a Europe of the cloud but a Europe of cloud services. A “meta-cloud” in a way.

Many sectors of activity will benefit from this initiative. Take, for example, the case of a European citizen moving to Europe. This traveler will be able to have, in his virtual wallet, his travel documents (virtual air ticket, train connection, etc.) but also biometric elements integrated in his passport. This will allow him to pass the various checkpoints in a transparent manner, in compliance with the regulations. The rights of access, by third parties, to his personal and travel information will be defined in advance, as well as the retention period, then destruction, of this data.

In order for this use case to become a reality, the level of technological complexity to be achieved is high: interoperability, end-to-end encryption, rights management … But the real issues go far beyond mere technical prowess. When we speak of “meta-cloud”, we also speak – and especially – of metadata. Through Gaia-X, we are moving towards defining and implementing protocols for negotiating and sharing data between cloud services. Gaia-X is first and foremost an initiative centered around data. Its existence presupposes the creation of national and transnational data hubs allowing this type of exchange.

Data, the gold of the 21st century

Within companies, the realization that there can be no digitalization without a data strategy continues. The confirmation of the role of Chief Data Officer, independent or added to the CIO role, is proof of this. Many organizations have realized that the real value of data is in the exchange and enrichment.

That’s why businesses need to take the time to carefully consider what data they can and cannot outsource. Their “move to cloud” strategy must be thought of from this angle.. Real reflections must be carried out around “core business” solutions but also around those with a more operational scope, while taking into account national legislation.

In this context, choosing only one type of cloud for all this data and applications is not sustainable in the long term. This is the reason why the multicloud and the hydride cloud are developing. And tomorrow, a company may decide to place part of its information system in a private cloud, another in an American hyper-scaler and another in a cloud referenced by … Gaia-X.

The Europe of tech is above all a Europe of “choice”

Certain sectors of activity – health, banking, transport, industry – will then have access to an additional choice, that of a European vertical cloud. 13 European banks have recently gathered around the “European Cloud User Coalition”. This alliance, which wishes to establish standards in favor of a European public cloud, could be backed by Gaia-X.

Presented at the end of November 2020 by the European Commission, the proposed “Data Governance Act” regulation also aims to create a new statute, that of data sharing provider. Neutrality in the exchange of data, good practices in their reuse, interoperability … The level of requirements of this new regulation will be high, as is that of the GDPR.

Building a Europe of tech does not mean building a technological Europe “against” this or that actor, whether American, Chinese or from any other geographical area. Building a Europe of tech means above all offering European companies an alternative solution, complementary to existing solutions. The objective is to bring a balance and to avoid any technological confinement.

New opportunities to seize

The Europeans have certainly fallen behind their competitors in the infrastructure market. But in the field of software development, applications and value-added services, Europe has its say. The conjunction of the arrival of 5G and Gaia-X will make it possible to create new spaces to seize. Many European players will be able to express themselves in high added value segments where sovereignty and the use of data will be strategic.

The stakes are high. First of all, it is about not losing control of an information system that many companies have already very strongly delegated – calculation, hosting, intelligence – to players located outside the European Union. The issue of reversibility, portability and contractual transparency has never been so topical. And if we add the issue of data security and confidentiality, we quickly realize the scale of the challenges that we have yet to meet collectively.