Local cloud lobby gets vocal

By Julian Bajkowski

A prominent faction of Australia’s telecommunications and cloud computing industry has launched an orchestrated push to convince all three tiers of Australian government to support a bid to make Australia the cloud computing capital of the Asia Pacific region in the run-up to the Federal Election.

Known as OzHub, the supplier-based lobby has called on Canberra to include the goal of becoming a regional cloud centre as a goal in the forthcoming Digital Economy White Paper, a broad technology policy setting document which replaced the late-running and security focused Cyber White Paper.

In a statement issued today, the group has called for “Australian governments to set a goal of establishing Australia as the leading cloud-ready country in the region by 2020.”

It comes as other regional players, notably Singapore, struggle with sharply disparate regulatory policy settings for their own national data sovereignty and trying to attract foreign investment in cloud computing to their shores.

A challenge in attracting investment in cloud computing by governments and big corporations are laws and regulations that act to ‘onshore’ certain types of personal information such as bank customers’ personal financial details.

In Australia the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority has fired a shot over the bow of major institutions looking to potentially utilise overseas cloud computing facilities, especially if such infrastructure handles customer information.

A persistent concern of regulators over cloud is that data that crosses borders may not be bound by local laws, thus amplifying risk by putting enforcement and market regulation potentially out of reach.

Unions including the Financial Services Union have also called for controls on what can be offshored under cloud, including jobs.

However technology front-runners in the financial services industry, both in Australia and overseas, are resisting any blanket-bans on cloud computing bans on the basis that such action is poorly informed and doesn’t take account of market realities where customer information routinely travels across jurisdictions.

At the same time Prime Minister Julia Gillard has told Communications Minister Stephen Conroy to develop a cloud computing strategy as part of the forthcoming Digital Economy White Paper, a move that effectively backs the disruptive cloud computing sector at a time when existing infrastructure providers are trying to prevent their market share being eroded by new competitors.

However the OzHub group wants Canberra, the states and local governments to go a step further and sign-up to an ambitious explicit target.

“Strong investments are being made in Australia’s enabling cloud infrastructure, such as the National Broadband Network, but what is absent is a strong statement of intent by governments about where we want to be as a nation in our adoption of cloud computing opportunities.” Tim Marshall, OzHub Director and External Affairs Director, Alcatel-Lucent Australia said.

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