Cloud computing represents one example of the concrete materialisation of the European Union’s quest for “digital sovereignty” and the GAIA-X project has an important role to play in it. In just one year, the initiative has reached several important milestones in its effort to establish federated services for secure and reliable exchange of data between organisations. Sasha Baillie, CEO, Luxinnovation kicked off the conference reminding that while the idea was not to stop working with providers based outside Europe because there is a need for broader cooperation and so far 61% of the cloud-based solutions used by SMEs are held by US providers, yet we cannot consider hosting all the data outside of Europe. Many initiatives are underway to favour a strategic autonomy where freedom and privacy are guaranteed. “Who can access to data, when and from where is a great challenge nowadays and GAIA X is about creating a common understanding, a relevant legal structure ensuring data security, compliance and governance.”
The Luxembourg Government strategy in supporting the project
“GAIA X is not a stand-alone initiative, it is part of a strategy. A lot of efforts and commitment has been done from the government” highlighted Mario Grotz, Director General for Industry, Technology and Research at Ministry of Economy.
Data is the oil of today, the growth of the amount of data is evolving exponentially and will reach 175 zettabytes in 2025. “There is a lot of economic opportunities that are raising from this but we are not really using this: just 3% of all data is currently tagged and ready for manipulation, only one sixth of this data (0.5%) is used for analysis. 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years but only 2% of the data produced in 2020 was saved and retained in 2021. We are not yet ready to use the full potential of Data Economy” explained Mario Grotz.
Luxembourg is one of the first countries to have positioned itself in the Data Economy. The government invested in connectivity, data center, the development of competencies within universities. If we look at the number, Luxembourg is above the average when it comes to digital transformation compared to other European countries.
In 2019, the government came up with a clear strategy based on 3 main pillars:
1/ Investing in relevant infrastructures = data centers, HPC, connectivity, 5G and new tech edge computing etc
2/ Developing the Know-how: by offering specific trainings and accompaniment to companies.
3/ Ensuring a favourable regulatory environment, intellectual property and investment in tangible assets.
This is reflected in the “roadmap for competitive and sustainable economy to 2025”:
- Accelerating across al key sectors the digitized economy for social benefit
· Driving the digitally enabled circular economy transition
· Developing resilient strategic value chains
· Enabling a secure and trusted data-economy transformation
· Ensuring a sustainable digital transition
· Providing a supportive investment environment and instruments to achieve competitive sustainability.
Grotz underlined that the approach which has been put at the forefront of GAIA X is in line with Luxembourg’s.
Have invested in national data exchange platform to make data available, accessible, interoperable.
This will be set tup in the platform. More than €120 million are invested to reach the objectives.
Luxembourg GAIA-X Regional Hub is composed of 8 direct members of the AISBL and 26 indirect members, LIH being the leader of the Health working group, RHEA Groupe the leader of the space group and Luxembourg is represented in other strategic working groups including finance, mobility, public sector, smart cities, education, agriculture and circular economy.
GAIA X Federation Services
Andreas Weiss, Head of Digital Business Models and Member of the Gaia-X AISBL Technical Committee Federation Services / OSS was also part of the experts present to share insights on the development of the GAIA X project and federation services are part of it.
Indeed, Gaia-X promotes federations, a new model of cloud data exchange that is orthogonal to the existing dominant model of hyper-concentration of data. Data are acquired in all sectors across the globe. They shall no more be concentrated in single places.
GAIA X addresses this issue by implementing a high-level technical architecture based on Open standards and technologies. Through Gaia-X federations, several technology providers can create and offer a network of services with common identity, common self-description, common controllability, and interoperability across their nodes.
French projects have already kicked off: www.gxfs.eu for more information.
The European Landscape on the EU data economy
Pierre Chastanet, Head of Unit – Cloud & Software, DG CONNECT, European Commission presented the 4 key pillars of the EU data strategy:
1- A governance framework for data access and use
2 – Strategic investments into the newest technology and capabilities (edge computing, cloud capabilities, cyber security, etc)
3 Competences to emphasize the need of European citizens becoming aware of data in general and the value it brings
4 – Common EU Data spaces in crucial economic sectors and domain of public interest (9 in total).The Commission believes that promoting the sharing and usage of data between sectors can quickly lead to results.
Next step consists in reinforcing the EU data policy framework. After the adoption of the GDPR in April 2016 and the free flow of non-personal data regulation in 2018, on 23 February 2022, the European Commission published the long-awaited “European Data Act”, which is a proposal for regulation to establish a harmonized framework for data sharing in the European Union.
The Data Act makes more data available for use and will set up rules on who can use and access what data for which purposes across all economic sectors in the EU. This should help improve trust people have in data processes & interoperability standards.
With the adoption of the Digital Markets Act in 2022, the Commission will ban certain practices used by large platforms acting as “gatekeepers” and enable the Commission to carry out market investigations and sanction on non-compliant behaviour.
In order to tackle the fragmentation of EU data processing capacity, businesses can refer to The European Alliance for Industrial Data, Edge and Cloud. This alliance will assist in implementing the European Commission’s cloud priorities as announced in the European data strategy (above).
It counts 46 active members, most of them being GAIA X members which facilitates synergies. It focuses on a number of sectors with high security requirements. (Edge-cloud continuum, Defence & aeronautics, member states cooperation).
Chastanet also mentioned their work with ENISA around the EU Cybersecurity Act. The framework sets EU-wide parameters for the rules, technical requirements, standards and procedures surrounding risk-based certification schemes covering different categories of ICT products, processes and services.
“This will avoid the existing fragmentation today as cloud providers will need to be certified. We hope to have this before end of 2022”.
The commission will invest more than €10 billion in the projects they are committed in.
Hubert Tardieu, Chairman of the Gaia-X Association added that GAIA X and the EU Commission were now fully aligned. He welcomed the great development of the association counting more than 324 companies, 3 out of 4 being private and, half of them, SMEs from very different sectors.
For Tardieu, the challenge lies in organising hubs and funding them. There are 14 of them in the EU right now including the inauguration of the Austrian one, two days ago and Japan to join soon. “2021 was the time for setting up, 2022 is the year for adoption” he stated.
He then presented the key lighthouse projects in GAIA X. Data space projects started back in 2021, Catena X bing one of the most advanced one in size but not maturity. In terms of maturity, he mentioned the Agdatahub. Other data spaces are: Mobility/ Structura X/ EuPro Gigant / SCSN (smart connected supplier network).
Use cases in Automotive and Sustainable Finance
Oliver Ganser, Head of Programme – Data Driven Value Chain at BMW Group & Head of Consortia Catena-X and Chairman of the Board Catena-X e.V. was present to share their use case for the Automotive sector.
Cantena X is, indeed, an open data ecosystem funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, the first data driven value chain for the automotive industry. 28 companies are part of the consortia to benefit from a fair and balanced ecosystem. The companies involved want to increase the automotive industry’s competitiveness, improve efficiency through industry-specific cooperation and accelerate company processes through standardization and access to information and data.
Other presentation was led by Jochen Papenbrock, Financial Services and Technology Developer Relationship Lead EMEA at NVIDIA on “AI and Accelerated Computing for Trustworthy, Sustainable Finance” where he explained how to use AI and accelerated computing to build a trustful marketplace. Sustainable finance means look after ESG criteria which represent a lot of data to analyse because sustainable finance plays a key role to support the road to net-zero. “Using AI to monitor companies enables to see if they obey to the standards of ESG.”
The event ended with a panel discussion moderated by Vassilia Orfanou, CMO, Gaia-X Association together with Sasha Baillie, CEO Luxinnovation; Antonietta Mastroianni, Chief Digital & IT Officer at Proximus; Dr. Carole Bruckler, Head of Digital Health Technologies, Ministry of Economy and Celine Tarraube, Adviser Digital and Innovation, FEDIL. Baillie highlighted the progress made by the GAIA X initiative and called for more companies to join the movement as this will be crucial in the construction of a more innovative, competitive and secure market in the years to come. Luxinnovation supports companies in their transformation and they are committed to ease the process for those who wish to seize the opportunity. Mastroianni agreed saying that GAIA X has an important role to play in order to create the right environment for SMEs to have access to further data, services. “This can prevent natural disaster if we have built and leveraged on geo data” mentioning the flooding in Belgium. For Tarraube, the challenge lies on three main issues when it comes to SMEs: money, resources and skills. “When you are a small company, you don’t have time to look for new business opportunities or digital solutions. What we hear from our members is the lack of trust and GAIA X has a role to play in this sense and help finding the right partners for that.” Talking about data spaces, Bruckler underlined the challenge linked to the Healthcare sector which is, according to her, the most complicated one given the fragmentation of data in this sector. “The sector is led by former stakeholders and when we talk about sharing data, there is a great lack of trust. GAIA X, in that sense, provides a guiding light towards what can be done in the sector and rely on use cases to make it practical, share standards”.
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