Much has been written about the benefits of cloud computing. It's providing consumers, businesses, and governments quick, efficient and affordable access to technology that was previously available only to large organizations. And that access is rapidly expanding opportunities in established markets and emerging economies alike.
Less attention has been paid, however, to what cloud providers need to ensure those consumers, businesses and governments can access the cloud: the right mix of national laws and regulations.
Focusing attention on that element the cloud is the purpose of a new study from BSA | The Software Alliance. That study, the 2016 Global Cloud Computing Scorecard, reveals that while many countries have made healthy improvements in their policy environments in recent years, a patchwork of inadequate laws and regulations around the globe threatens to stunt the unprecedented societal benefits and economic growth fueled by cloud computing.
This year's Scorecard updates BSA's rating of the cloud-related polices of 24 countries that account for 80 percent of the world's IT markets. Launched in 2012, this series of reports is the only one of its kind to track ongoing change in global policies landscape for cloud computing. The results show an uneven picture with some countries ready to seize the technological opportunity and others trailing behind.
An area of concern is how some countries are implementing policies that impede the development of cloud computing services. Russia and China, for example, have imposed policies that limit the ability of cloud service providers to adequately move data across borders. This freedom of movement is required for cloud computing to provide the full extent of potential benefits. Countries that wall themselves off are hurting their own economies.
Also of concern are policies in India, Indonesia, and Korea that prevent the use of international standards and international certifications.
Other countries have failed to improve outdated or insufficient laws. Brazil has the potential to become a significant market for cloud computing, but its laws are in flux. Although it is working to improve security, infrastructure, and Internet freedom, Brazil is being held back by a lack of comprehensive and balanced data privacy laws and other concerns.
Other emerging markets, such as Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam may be improving in some areas, such as strong IT readiness, but their overall rankings are dampened by weak data security laws.
The BSA study also shows that the gap is widening between countries that are cloud-ready and those that are lagging. Many countries, such as South Africa, are making healthy improvements to their cloud-service environments. Other markets are being left further behind by countries such as Japan and the United States, which already are enhancing cloud-friendly environments.
Even countries that achieved the best scores in the report can and should improve their policies to promote cloud computing even further.
Our report is a wake-up call for all governments to work together to ensure the benefits of the cloud around the globe.
The bottom line is that inconsistency worldwide means less connectivity now and in the future. And that means less productivity and competitiveness for every country.
Governments must do more to foster and promote laws, regulations and policies that embrace the connectivity of the cloud.
Laws don't need to be identical from country to country, but they do need to work so that governments and businesses can take full advantage of the transformative potential of a global cloud marketplace. They must allow the free movement of data, robust privacy and security, promotion of free trade, and use of global standards.
The cloud is ushering in unprecedented productivity, competitiveness and job growth. If all countries welcome this technology - and do all they can to see that their policies do the same - we all will win.