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CIO - In IT circles, the move to the cloud may have become a broadly acknowledged inevitability, but the legal and regulatory frameworks surrounding cloud computing in developed and emerging nations remain a highly unsettled proposition, according to a new study from a leading software trade association.
The Business Software Alliance surveyed the policies in 24 countries estimated to account for 80 percent of the global information and communications technology market, finding significant disparities and ominous signs of digital protectionism that could chill the global expansion of cloud services.
"Our view is that really to capture the full economic potential of the cloud, governments have to do a better job of harmonizing their policies," says BSA President and CEO Robert Holleyman. "There is a substantial risk that governments will adopt policies that will really chop the global cloud into little pieces."
The BSA presented its findings as a scorecard, evaluating each country by a measure of seven policy areas the group considers critical to the growth of the cloud market, including data privacy, cybersecurity and intellectual property.
Japan Tops Charts, U.S. Finishes 4th
Topping the list was Japan, which received high marks for its policies to promote universal high-speed Internet access and its efforts to strengthen free trade. The report also touts a comprehensive set of Japanese laws that promote privacy without impeding data transfers and protect intellectual property, among other cloud-friendly policies.
The United States ranked fourth in the BSA's evaluation, counting among the strongest of the nations for its support of industry-led standards and efforts to harmonize international trade rules.
The BSA notes that the term "cloud computing" on its face is quite broad, citing a definition advanced by the National Institute of Standards and Technology that deems cloud systems those that enable "ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction."
"What is more important AA and more understandable AA are the economic and social benefits inherent in cloud computing," the authors of the report wrote. "For small and large businesses, governments and consumers, it equalizes access to technology."
Some of the developing nations that could present enormous market opportunities for cloud providers had some of the least friendly regulatory environments. Brazil ranked at the back of the pack, with a score of 35.1 out of a possible 100, receiving especially low marks for its stance on combating cybercrime and promotion of free trade.
China, which received the fourth-lowest score, also took a hit for its free trade policy, with the authors of the report noting the favorable regulatory environment that domestic companies enjoy in that country.