Economy Gaia X - Europe's digital catching up

Gaia X – Europe's digital catching up

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Dusseldorf, Berlin Big projects often get names from ancient mythology. This is also the case with Gaia-X, named after a deity who was regarded as a personified earth by the ancient Greeks. With this initiative, Minister of Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier (CDU) wants to create a cloud infrastructure for the economy in Germany and Europe. On Tuesday he wants to present the project at the digital summit in Dortmund.

The first details are in a strategy paper from Altmaier's department, which is available to Handelsblatt. In addition to the Federal Ministry of Research, Gaia-X has also been joined by several Dax companies, including Deutsche Bank, SAP, Siemens and Telekom, as well as IG Metall.

"We, representatives of the German government, business and science, strive for a powerful and competitive, secure and trustworthy data infrastructure for Europe," says the paper. "For this purpose, we have developed the basis for building a networked, open data infrastructure based on European values ​​under the provisional project name Gaia-X."

The initiative is intended to remedy a technological deficit in the German economy. Currently, local companies often use American vendors to store huge amounts of data in the cloud for lack of alternatives. Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft dominate the market, Google and Alibaba invest heavily to catch up.

The platforms of large corporations offer a variety of features at low prices. When it comes to the networking of factories or the use of artificial intelligence, they are far ahead of German competition. Politicians fear that Germany will become dependent on and lose sovereignty. This is where Gaia-X starts.

The aim of the project is a networked, open data infrastructure based on European values, "which meets the highest standards of digital sovereignty and promotes innovation," the initiators write in their paper. Gaia-X is thought to be the "cradle of an open digital ecosystem," where data can be made available, consolidated, and shared "securely and confidently."

The idea is to build a "European, sovereign and networked data infrastructure", writes the Minister in a guest contribution for Handelsblatt. "Data sovereignty and data availability are key to digital innovation," says Altmaier. He wants to shape the general conditions "so that our companies and especially start-ups can consistently use their strengths to create successful own business models in Germany and Europe and to be globally competitive".

Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek (CDU) sees Gaia-X as one of the most important digital projects to defend the leading position of the German and European economies internationally. "Because the power over the data in Europe should no longer be in the hands of a few companies elsewhere," said Karliczek the Handelsblatt.

Its own data infrastructure should also provide protection against access from abroad. Specifically, the so-called Cloud Act raises concerns that have allowed US authorities since 2018 to access data stored by US IT providers overseas. "For this we need an answer, we have to position ourselves," says Karl-Heinz Streibich, President of the Academy of Science, Handelsblatt. "If digital sovereignty is important to us, then we have to keep sovereignty over our data. It's best to have your own cloud infrastructure based on our German and European legal systems. "

There is a demand for this, according to a recent study by the digital association Bitkom. According to this, for every two thirds of the companies surveyed, the headquarters of the cloud provider (67 percent) and the data center (66 percent) must be within the legal area of ​​the EU. The safety aspect is also important. 73 percent of respondents fear that public cloud solutions will give them unauthorized access to sensitive company data.

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Gaia-X should not be a major player, not a "hyperscaler" modeled on Microsoft and Amazon. Rather, the concept envisages a network of cloud platforms and complementary services; a "decentralized" or "virtual" hyperscaler is mentioned in Altmaier's department. So that does not cause confusion, there should be a common standard for data exchange. The network is designed to span large companies, SMEs, start-ups, government institutions and science.

These will, for example, be jointly developed by the initiators, with artificial intelligence applications: automakers could share data with transport companies and health care providers could associate with research laboratories and start-ups. First ingredients are already known.

In the initiative "International Data Spaces", the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is developing a secure data room that should serve as the basis for secure data exchange in various industries. And the Friedhelm Loh Group, with its subsidiary German Edge Cloud, is developing a mini-data center that will help industrial companies network with partners and process data – the company keeps the control, as the promise goes.

"Overdue Advance"

Despite many open questions, the cloud initiative Altmaiers has broad support. "In principle, I think it is right to become active in the protection of digital sovereignty and industrial policy," said the digital policy spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group, Jens Zimmermann, the Handelsblatt. However, for the Minister's plans to be successful in the end, more European support is needed. Here, Altmaier urgently needs to mobilize other partners.

Green digital politician Dieter Janecek spoke of an overdue push. "The German and European way must not be, however, to raise own monopoly-like tech giants," he warned. The focus should be on strengthening a diverse and innovative IT landscape by enabling companies to develop alternative offerings to market-dominating applications and actors through legally compliant forms of cooperation.

Also Altmaiers party friend, the CDU digital expert Tankred Schipanski, is convinced: "A project like Gaia-X can help the European digital economy to make a breakthrough." Whether it will work depends mainly on the economy, "which at some point the jump dare – from the big US providers to European players ". Gaia-X thus offers a great opportunity and could make a "substantial contribution" to Germany's digital sovereignty.

Altmaier pushes on the pace. In the first half of 2020, his plan is to set up an organization for Gaia-X. "It will be the core of the European ecosystem." The Department of Commerce believes that Gaia-X has a chance against AWS, Azure and other services.

"Building on existing solutions and their evolution, we want to develop competitive offerings around the world from within Europe." Market participants outside Europe could also participate, provided they share the goals of data sovereignty and data availability.

"Data sovereignty and data access are essential success factors for a data-driven economy," said Oliver Suem, CEO of the Association of the German Internet Industry. The president of the IT association Bitkom, Achim Berg, is cautiously optimistic. "The technical, organizational and legal complexity of the Gaia-X project is high," said Berg the Handelsblatt. Ultimately, Gaia-X has to prove its worth in the market, both in terms of functionality and performance as well as user-friendliness and costs. "The market success will be the litmus test by Gaia-X – and that's what counts."

More: Karl-Heinz Streibich sees Germany as a dangerous dependency on foreign digital companies and explains what the federal government must do now.

. (tagsToTranslate) Gaia X (t) Altmaier (t) Cloud (t) Europe (t) Economy (t) Artificial Intelligence (t) AI (t) Digitalisation (t) Economic Policy (t) Information Management (t) CDU (t) Bitkom (t) Microsoft (t) Deutsche Bank (t) SPD (t) the Greens (t) Alibaba (t) AWS (t) Google (t) Ministry of Economic Affairs (t) Siemens (t) Friedhelm Loh Group (t) IG Metall (t) Amazon (t) Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (t) SAP (t) Peter Altmaier (t) Achim Berg (t) Anja Karliczek (t) Karl-Heinz Streibich

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