02/23/2012 03:19 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Mapping the Global Policy Environment for Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is the fastest-growing and most exciting new sector in the software and computing industries. IDC estimates that by 2015 revenue from public IT cloud services will account for one out of every seven dollars spent on commercial software, server, and storage offerings. Private cloud solutions could add another 10 percent or 20 percent to the market. And even more significant for the global economy will be the knock-on benefits that come from accelerating digital commerce and making robust technology solutions available to more users with greater cost efficiencies than ever before.

But in a first-of-its-kind study of the global policy landscape, BSA has come to the troubling conclusion that a patchwork of conflicting laws and regulations threatens to prevent the cloud computing market from reaching its full potential on a global scale. Above all, the BSA Global Cloud Computing Scorecard finds there is a pressing need for governments to better harmonize their policies to smooth the flow of data across borders.

The Scorecard benchmarks the cloud readiness of 24 countries that together make up 80 percent of the global information and communications technology market. It shows which countries are best positioned to drive the cloud computing revolution; it reveals barriers to growth; and it outlines a set of guiding principles that all countries would be well advised to follow.

In ranking countries' cloud-related policies, the report finds a sharp divide between advanced economies and the developing world. Japan ranks first overall because it has comprehensive privacy policies that don't inhibit commerce, a full range of criminal and intellectual property protections to foster innovation, and robust IT infrastructure. The United States and EU countries also have established solid legal and regulatory bases to support the growth of the cloud, while developing countries like China, India, and Brazil show the most room for improvement.

These findings may not be surprising. But the study warns that many high-ranking countries are beginning to wall themselves in with technology preferences and market-distorting regulations. Lawmakers in some EU countries, for example, are doing things to keep non-European firms waiting at the border while favoring local cloud providers. This does not bode well, because it effectively chops the global cloud into little pieces.

To have a truly global cloud market, we don't need every country's laws to be identical. But they need to be compatible. In the report, BSA offers governments a seven-point policy blueprint for expanding economic opportunity in the cloud with a more level playing field:
  1. Protect users' privacy while enabling the free flow of data and commerce.
  2. Promote cutting-edge cybersecurity practices that counter threats by drawing on the innovative capacity of the market.
  3. Battle cybercrime with meaningful deterrence and clear causes of action against criminals.
  4. Provide robust protection and vigorous enforcement against misappropriation and infringement of cloud technologies.
  5. Encourage openness and interoperability among cloud providers and technologies.
  6. Promote free trade by lowering barriers and eliminating preferences for particular products or providers.
  7. Provide incentives for the private sector to invest in broadband infrastructure, and promote universal access to it among citizens.

Click here to visit an interactive microsite where you can browse or download the full report plus individual country summaries.

This post was also featured on the Business Software Alliance's blog, BSA TechPost. The Business Software Alliance is a trade group that represents software makers against copyright infringement.