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GAIA-X – EU’s answer to AWS – hailed as “the most important tech project in a generation”

The German economy minister Peter Altmaier has described plans for a new pan-European cloud computing infrastructure as the EU’s most “important digital aspiration in a generation”.

The project, titled GAIA-X, brings together a range of European telecoms and tech firms to develop a European cloud computing infrastructure to rival the US tech giants Microsoft and Amazon.

The French and German ministers spearheading Gaia-X see it as central to plans to restoring European technological sovereignty and reducing dependence on American providers.

AWS, Amazon’s cloud computing division, currently dominates the sector, holding nearly a third of the global market, twice as much as its nearest competitor, Microsoft.

Speaking at the official launch of the project towards on Thursday, Altmaier said: “We are wholeheartedly convinced that the final success [of this project] will be crucial for Germany, for France and for Europe as far as our economic strengths, our competitiveness and our sovereignty is concerned.

“GAIA-X is a key project for setting up a sovereign, trustworthy and innovative European data infrastructure. [It] is just the starting point of a European data ecosystem that serves one single purpose; providing companies and people and their business ideas with the data and the opportunities they need for being successful in the data economy in the years to come. […]

“A user participating in GAIA-X will be able to [procure] services from any provider in the ecosystem. It will give users a freedom of choice and service providers a huge amount of visibility and market opportunities.”

The project will be managed by a non-profit foundation in Belgium, and some 22 companies are set to be involved, including Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Atos and OVHcloud, and manufacturers such as BMW and Siemens.

Restoring the EU’s digital sovereignty is one of the key ambitions for the European Commission’s new president Ursula Von der Leyen. During her inauguration speech in November, she said: “We must have mastery and ownership of key technologies in Europe.”

As one GAIA-X document notes, the EU has a long way to go. It states: “Europe’s digital infrastructure currently lies in the hands of a small number of major non-European corporations: Europe has no notable operating system developers, no relevant search engines, no global social network and no competitive cloud infrastructure.”