Gaia-X and Data Sovereignty, why they matter for Europe

Giulia Perdomini
gaia-x and europe

What is Gaia-X?

Gaia-X is a major European project that aims to create a standard for the creation of a European Cloud that will be based on a transparent and sovereign data infrastructure. The aim of the project is the creation of common data spaces to enable the data economy on the Continent.
The Gaia-X project was born from an initiative of the German Ministry of Economy and Energy (BMWi) to which French and Italian organizations and companies were then added. The individual European states have undertaken to activate the Gaia-X Hubs. Hubs are local initiatives aimed to analyze the specific needs of the production districts of the individual countries.

First Key Word: Protection

Much of the digital infrastructure and Internet standards are managed by US companies and organizations. Europe has so far struggled to play an important role in this sector. The GDPR represented a first attempt to shape the Internet according to European ethical principles. The Gaia-x project is a further step forward: an entire data infrastructure based on security, transparency and data protection.

Second Key Word: Circulation

It was born on the initiative of the German government in 2019. Immediately in 2020 it was extended to the whole Continent. Today it has nearly 350 members who work together to define a new concept of Cloud infrastructure to enable the circulation of data at a European level, a concept that lies at the basis of the data economy.

What Led to the Birth of Gaia-X?

In a nutshell: the need to protect data in a new way

Our way of life (communicating with family members, shopping, moving, sending children to school …) depends on data platforms. If data has become a primary asset we cannot allow someone else to control it. For this reason we speak of data sovereignty, interpreted as the recovery of control of one’s data.

In some countries such as the United States, the judicial authority has permission to access data regardless of their geographical location and ownership. So anyone with data in the United States can be subject to third party access. Awareness of this risk has led in Europe both public administrations – which manage sensitive data – and companies – which manage industrial data protected by intellectual property – to understand the need to create sovereign platforms for data management.

Infrastructure, Data Space and Services

Gaia-x is a federated software framework that connects different Cloud service providers. In this way it allows the connection of different computing nodes to create European computing resources. This network of resources will be able to represent an alternative to the large global cloud providers (USA and Asia).

The infrastructure is based on the concept of Data Space. Data Spaces are large containers where different actors, on a voluntary basis, can share their data. These aggregators can be organized by supply chain, sector or area. Projects and services are born from the aggregation and exchange of data.

An example of a service is Catena-X: the biggest german players in the automotive supply chain (BMW, Volkswagen, Bosch, Siemens …) collaborate by sharing data. By working collaboratively, production and maintenance times are reduced, product defects are anticipated or corrected.

Similar projects have also started in the world of healthcare, mobility, Industry 4.0, tourism & culture, which will translate into new, better and more efficient services. These services produced by the data collected in the Data Spaces can then be opened to third parties at a later time: that is, companies from other sectors can be aggregated to the Data Space or the services can be sold.

The Services are Dedicated to Both Large Companies and SMEs

Members can belong to all countries and in fact Gaia-X already include the large global service providers: Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Alibaba … But Gaia-X represents an opportunity to bring together small and large companies. Service providers and users from different countries will be able to exchange data by working collaboratively.

The Dilemma of the Entry of the Major Global Cloud Providers

The question most frequently asked to the Association in recent months is the following.

“How can European technology providers gain market share in the Cloud sector if their partners include major global players?”

Recall that the market share of European companies is currently 4% and decreasing, although the market is growing.

The CEO of Gaia-X, Francesco Bonfiglio, in an interview with Radio24 gave the following answer. Gaia-X will be a geographically distributed Cloud architecture with horizontal as well as vertical scalability. The large cloud providers today offer only vertical scalability. The two models are therefore very different from various points of view: technological, architectural and, last but not least, economic. Gaia-X is building a Cloud that is ethically different from the one existing up to now. So the big players in order to participate must readjust their technologies to the requirements of this new model because it is not natively compatible.

Qboxmail and Data Protection

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