The Cloud has become a game-changer in how businesses manage the flow of information, how software and data is distributed, and how people connect to one another. Cloud Computing has the potential to contribute significantly to European economic growth, while offering a wealth of opportunities to new ventures and established global players alike.
But it also offers up a variety of threats in the form of cyber attacks, and that is why a multi-organisational Trusted Cloud High Impact Initiative was launched by EIT Digital. We talk to some of the figures involved in this initiative, and discover how they intend to change the face of Cloud computing in Europe.
We talk with Christian Fredrikson, former president and CEO at F-Secure, a digital security and software company based in Helsinki. His interest in the Cloud at a European level is clear – he was on the steering board of the European Cloud Partnership, part of the European Commission's European Cloud Strategy.
He believes that the potential is there for innovation and business in Europe – but that we are currently lagging behind the likes of China and the US when it comes to making the most of that potential. The Trusted Cloud initiative, of which F-Secure is a key part, will look to change that.
Question: Why did you get involved in this Trusted Cloud project?
Christian Fredrikson: Personally I feel that this project is very important for Europe, starting from the fact that we are behind in technological development. We don't have startups in the same phase as elsewhere, we haven't moved to the Cloud and to utilising new technological innovation in the same way, and we haven't been able to create new opportunities for companies to grow in this business either.
Q: Where do we need to improve?
Christian : If you look at the developments in the US and China, they are moving faster so that is of course where this started for me personally as I believe that we have to get better. We are clearly good at educating people; we have good schooling systems in Europe, we have good universities, and our innovation capabilities are good, but our capability to bring that to business, and bring that technological innovation in real practical terms to life, is not on the level of the US and China. That is where I felt that it is important we do things on a European level as well because we have a different set up from the start because we are 28 nations rather than a single unified entity where it is easier to drive things forward.
That's there I feel these things are important. If we drive commonalities, we make it possible for companies to start up and focus on what they are good at, and not get stuck in every country separately doing things. If that happens, then you will always be too small to scale, and will fight one language after another or one country after another. So that is why I think it is important for us to drive this.
“There is a lot to do on privacy and digital regulation and it is important for countries and the EU to keep on pushing and get better. And we are doing our part to help in that, to drive it, to make it simpler for business and to have at least common legislation.”, says former F-Secure’s CEO Christian Fredrikson.
"All in all, people are reasonably happy with what they’re used to – because they’re so used to it. On the other hand, changing things so that they become more convenient could also have an adverse effect and make people feel that the system has become less secure."
Q: Does this also go for F-Secure as a company?
Christian : As a company we participated in this because we obviously want to be the cyber security leader in Europe We believe that there is a position to be taken and we don't want that to be a non-European organisation. We believe that we can be world class and we can take that position in this. And there are clear blockages starting to come up in the digital world because the question is, who do you trust when you have now government surveillance?
It is a great position for a European player, coming from Finland with strong privacy laws, to take that challenge. So we wanted to be part of this and drive the European agenda.
I believe that innovation and opening it up to companies is always good; it creates more innovation. We will learn from that by being part of that.
Q: What is the main thrust of your contribution to the project?
Christian : We are bringing the best part of our technology, the scanning engines. We open up the APIs into the project so that smaller companies can come in and utilise that capability to scan for viruses and scan for attacks, and understand how you build security into your systems, either in the apps or in the companies themselves.
Q: How important is the make up of this Trusted Cloud initiative, in terms of large and well-established companies working together with SMEs, research institutes and other diff kinds of organisations together? How important is it to create a trusted cloud?
Christian : I think it's very important otherwise everyone will be in this scattered situation, trying to drive it themselves. And as I said, we don't have the same way of driving it as the US or China has right now, so we need to drive it across Europe – we can at least agree on it and make it possible for companies to grow much more fluently.
I realise that there are many examples of doing something commonly across Europe – there are many examples where it has failed as well – and a good one is the GSM standard, which I lived through the 90s in my earlier business. It is a great example of where we really managed to do something great where the standard drove business and drove consumer products and drove a new technology through in strong ways when we standardised it well.
This is very important because things will go to the Cloud. Whether you like it or not, it will happen, it is already happening. Everything that is coming out there is connected to the Cloud, every washing machine and TV and every fridge. Whether you like it or not is not the question any more. They are already doing it from the manufacturing point of view; there is a chip in everything. The question now is, are we going to be a part of it and make some business out of it, and have some ideas on how to build it commonly in Europe, or are we just going to be bystanders, who get passed by, left and right?
I am pleased that other large companies feel the same way, that this is important for Europe. And of course we want to do it in an open fashion, that's the way it has to be done, so the competition can run. Everybody can compete together and innovate together at the same time.
Q: SMEs and startup represent the F-Secures of the future, companies which will hopefully go on to become integral parts of the ecosystem. Is that an important aspect to the project?
Christian : Oh yes, it's very important. We are a cyber security specialist, we want to be the leader and a trusted player in Europe, but we can't do that alone. There is no way for us to do that. I think that the best of innovation happens when people go in openly and there is both competition and also an openness to trying new things together. And we know that we will not innovate everything ourselves. The best of innovation comes always from this interface where you collaborate across borders, different competencies, different companies and different kinds of people. It is important for startups, and I'm very happy they get that chance, but it is equally important for F-Secure to be a part of that. I know that we will learn a lot about new things, and that it will create new innovation within our company.
Q: How does a Trusted Cloud work in your view?
Christian : It is built with security inside, because that is one of the biggest obstacles for the Cloud now as we can see with all the hacks that are happening. When you have that functioning, then innovation can thrive. The question is, what can software and the Cloud make possible? You can revolutionise how we do almost any industry in Europe; healthcare, education, energy, anything that is out there and can be redistributed by innovation.
What does the Cloud achieve? It redistributes idle capacity. It sounds boring, but what it does is totally change almost any industry. Look at the hotel industry; that is what Airbnb does. You take empty rooms and you make them available. Now there is a business case for startups doing the same with the renting of cars. Your car is not moving for 95 percent of the time. Now you have a website where you can advertise your car, and someone else is paying you to drive it when you don't need it. So you rent that capacity. It's the same thing Uber is doing with taxis, whether you like it or not. They redistribute capacity that was never used before.
That's what technology does for you. The Cloud, with the computing power behind it, it gets that data, and you can improve efficiencies, you can improve the capabilities. And an example of what it would do for Europe, is if we can achieve much more in healthcare than we do today with less money, in the face of our aging population. There are many things where we must use those capabilities of technology, and you need a Cloud and the processing power that it has, and the redistribution of information and innovation from it. That's what you need. If everybody is just sitting there with their own data, they are not going to bring that capacity into use.
But nobody will trust that Cloud, and bring all that data in there for the benefit of those industries, unless they trust that Cloud. It is not going to happen. There will be this Catch 22 because you will be so afraid that your innovation, your data is not secure, your personal data is not secure. It is a big thing – we don't even understand the implications of it, if we can drive it though Europe. When you have that Cloud, and it is safe and all that data is there, think about the amount of innovation and companies that can build things on it. I don't know even know one tenth of what is going to come out of it. But I believe it can be really great for Europe.
Yes, it will transform industries, and yes, it will change many ways of doing things, and yes it will both destroy and create jobs. That is what that technology will do.
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Q: As you've already touched upon, Europe has national barriers and different privacy laws and so on. How difficult is it for a project like the Trusted Cloud initiative to overcome that?
Christian : In a way, it is difficult, but I think the legislation, whether we are talking about 28 member states like in the EU or one country like the US or China, legislation is always far behind digital and technology development. It is just impossible, it is too fast. I don't know how to solve that – it's just the way things are. There is a lot to do on privacy and digital regulation and it is important for countries and the EU to keep on pushing and get better. And we are doing our part to help in that, to drive it, to make it simpler for business and to have at least common legislation.
But I realise also that, pragmatically, while it is a great idea, it is going to take time so let's move on with business, let's move on with the Cloud, and we will then adapt it to those countries where it works. I would imagine that we would have to find ways to implement in as many areas as possible. Most countries in Europe, you can drive this anyhow right now, and the question is how will legislation evolve. I hope that when we move this, that they will not start blocking things because of fear of the change and what is coming. And what governments worry about is how do they know what is happening and what access do they need to have to our data. That is probably the big question in any nation write now.
Q: What kind of concrete results will emerge?
Christian : The worst thing you can do is just keep on planning forever. That's probably a little bit of a European dilemma, that we don't analyse it to the death, but we actually go out with it. That is part of innovation that you go out and launch things. You succeed or fail, and when you fail it just means you learn on working towards success. But you have to get out to the market to see what flies with the consumers or the corporates. At the end of it, that is the only way that you are going to be measuring success. We need to build a standard and then get companies to start launching services on top of it.
Q: Can Europe export this idea of itself as being a more trusted place for your data?
Christian : Let's first get a European trusted Cloud for us and our companies. Obviously we are seen as more neutral as a region. Strong privacy legislation is a strength in Europe, and it has come about because of our history, where we learned the hard way that you actually have to work for your privacy. I believe that we have benefits in certain countries because of that, it goes back to the trust. But I am also a realist, that there are blockages that are coming. If you are in China, they would prefer Chinese security suppliers. If you are in the US, they would prefer US security supplier. Because of the inherent trust issue of that question.
Europe has not been caught at anything, maybe we haven't been good enough. Europe is seen clearly as more liberal and more privacy driven from this perspective. So yes there is an opportunity. We absolutely need to do it for Europe, and I believe we can export it, and we can utilise it. But very clearly a lot of nations, pragmatically, are still demanding that the data in the Cloud is in their country. So you can export the Cloud as such, but not so that you would keep it in Europe and distribute the data from here.
Q: How important is having an organisation like EIT Digital at the centre of this project, one that is not driven by profit but by a desire to drive innovation and economic growth?
Christian : The greatest success stories have been through this kind of organisation, where there is a neutral party to pull it all together. Either it's an organisation like this, or it is a government-driven organisation. It is much more difficult for us to assemble this but it is very essential.