European institutions and governments should throw their weight behind joint procurement of computing services to encourage the use of cloud computing, says Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

In an interview with EurActiv, which has also seen other documents spelling out Kroes’ strategy for cloud, the Commission vice president signalled she intends to enlist the EU’s collective spending power to drive a bargain with cloud computing providers.

Cloud computing enables vast amounts of data to be stored efficiently on off-site servers, enabling corporate computer systems to operate more smoothly.

More procurement strength in common approach

This month, Kroes launched a European Cloud Partnership to promote links between public authorities and industry to overcome problems faced by government institutions and the private sector in using the new technology.

The partnership aims to tackle obstacles to the use of cloud computing – standards, certification, data protection, interoperability, lock-in and legal certainty all remain troublesome for smaller companies wanting to use cloud.

But Kroes signalled that part of the initiative will involve bargaining hard with cloud providers in order to get the best deal.

Cloud computing is already being used by many in the private sector, despite the challenges, according to Kroes. “And we need to bring the public procurers into play as well in a systematic fashion. The big punch of public procurement should increase competition in cloud supply overall, to everybody's benefit,” she said.

In a separate commentary brief, seen by EurActiv, Kroes claimed that EU member states’ individual IT procurement budgets are “too small” to make much of a difference globally.

Teaming up on taxes, welfare

“But together we pull a lot of weight. This should lead to reduced costs for governments who need to deliver efficient and interoperable online services,” Kroes argued.

In its first phase, the partnership aims to create common requirements for cloud procurement, she said. The aim was to start “formalise” the common public sector requirements for cloud across member states, regions, and different applications like e-health, tax administration, and welfare payments.

“Building on this the public sector will benefit from simpler procurement of cloud services,” Kroes added.

The Commission has launched the partnership with an initial investment of €10 million, and the first results are expected in 2013.

Click here to read the full interview.