The plan to create a European cloud independent of the US multinationals that dominate the sector is gaining traction in Spain. The program is called GAIA-X and up to 313 companies have responded to the expression of interest called in June by the Government, official sources advance elDiario.es, which in total have submitted 180 proposals. Almost two thirds of the companies that have asked to participate in the creation of the national section of the project are Spanish SMEs, a result that the Executive considers “very relevant, because it shows that our SMEs see the relevance and opportunities of the data economy” .
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GAIA-X is a public-private initiative whose mission is to develop a cloud computing and data storage infrastructure so that European companies stop depending on US technology in this field. Currently this market is dominated by Amazon Web Services (32%), Microsoft Azure (20%) and Google Cloud (9%), according to the consulting firm Trading Platforms. China’s Alibaba (6%) is the first non-US company on the list.
The objective of the project is that the next generation of the cloud is of “European sovereignty” and “that it supposes a safe alternative in the market and grants capacity of control of access and reuse for those that produce the data”, they explain from the Secretariat of State of Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence (SEDIA), which coordinates the creation of the Spanish chapter. In summary: that the data generated in Europe remains on the continent, is governed by EU laws and does not depend on foreign multinationals that use it to generate a profit that is then taken abroad.
The ground anchor of this European cloud will consist of a network of hubs nationals. The original idea arose from an alliance between France and Germany in 2019, which used a model based on an association of companies coordinated by their respective government. The initiative soon took on a European character. Spain will complete its adherence to the project in the coming months, relying on community funds for the recovery from the coronavirus crisis. The first step has been this call by the Government to companies interested in forming the association responsible for the Spanish leg of GAIA-X.
This Thursday SEDIA has organized the first workshop on the initiative for the organizations that have applied, which will be attended by representatives of a hundred companies. “After this expression of interest and the good reception received, we are launching the work roadmap between now and the end of the year with industry agents (from very different sectors of activity) to begin designing and establishing this hub National GAIA-X “, they explain to this medium from the Secretary of State.
Currently there are some 250 international organizations and companies subscribed to the project, a figure that serves to put in context the 313 companies that have sent proposals only for the Spanish chapter. In addition to France, Germany and Spain, Belgium, Slovenia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Poland have also announced their participation.
A first sanitary use
The scope of the new European cloud will be “very sectoral” at first, warn the same sources. An example of its possible uses is the data lake (“data lake”) promoted by SEDIA together with the Ministry of Health. It is a large database where large amounts of clinical information generated by hospitals and health centers would be dumped, with the aim of using artificial intelligence to detect new patterns, help research and develop preventive medicine. These data would be previously pseudonymised and anonymized.
The Executive has allocated 100 million euros from the recovery fund to this health “data lake”. He has also asked the GAIA-X governing board to lead the development of the European cloud in the healthcare sector to empower the initiative. A large number of Spanish medical societies (Oncology, Primary Care Physicians, Intensive Medicine, etc.) and patients (the Spanish Association Against Cancer or the Platform of Patient Organizations) have already supported the idea. .
The plan of the promoters of GAIA-X is precisely to create their own infrastructure so as not to have to submit information as sensitive as that of a sanitary “data lake” to providers outside the EU.
Cloud, data lakes, artificial intelligence
The project to create a Spanish GAIA-X chapter connects with the digital axis on which the recovery plan designed by the Government for European funds pivots. “Spain is the EU country that is going to dedicate the highest percentage of these funds to its digital transformation. Exactly 30%, more than 20 million euros, unlike the average of 20% in the rest of the countries of the Union” , Carme Artigas, Secretary of State for Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence, recalled this Wednesday in an appearance in the Senate to explain the details of this strategy.
A central point of the plan, the Secretary of State has stated, is to promote the Spanish artificial intelligence sector. “It is one of the technologies with the greatest future projection and impact on the economy and society. A catalyst for research and development, making the massive generation, storage and processing of data, the big data, is in itself an economic sector, “he said.
Artificial intelligence is a catalyst for research and development, making the generation, storage and massive processing of data, the ‘big data’, itself an economic sector
– Secretary of State for Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence
Artigas, who before coming to the Government was one of the largest entrepreneurs in the national AI sector (she founded a data analysis startup that she sold to Telefónica for 10 million euros, becoming one of the top executives of the multinational), warns that this development will not come without prior effort. “The success of this transformation depends to a large extent on the existence of a competitive supply of infrastructures, digital service products based on enabling technologies and R&D activities that are also transferred to the industry”, he recalled.