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Colao presents Italy’s plan for cloud autonomy

Italy will launch a tender for the creation of a national cloud hub by the end of this year as part of a project designed to give the country a degree of digital autonomy.

Technological Innovation and Digital Transition Minister Vittorio Colao this week formally presented the Italian Cloud Strategy, a scheme that governs the digitisation of the public administration in Italy and the implementation of cloud services, and forms part of the country’s EU-funded post-pandemic National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

The strategy has a number of key tenets, including the creation of a National Strategic Hub, or a national infrastructure for the provision of cloud services that is managed and controlled by providers from inside the EU. It also covers a certification process to ensure public cloud providers meet certain security requirements, including national security; and various processes to enable public administrations to migrate data and services to the cloud.

It’s all about balance, as Colao noted in his presentation.

The minister wants to “guarantee to Italy, to the Italian people…safe and protected environments, but also access to the best technologies,” Colao said.

Essentially, the big cloud providers will be allowed in, but they will have to meet the licensing criteria. Meanwhile, important data will be under Italian control.

In its strategy document, the government makes it clear that it is looking to increase th EU’s technological autonomy ahead of the large-scale migration of public authority services to the cloud. This should diminish the risks associated with cost increases, service interruptions, or “actions that are potentially beyond the control of the country.”

From the data point of view, the government points out that “the operation of cloud services by providers in non-EU countries poses an additional risk due to the regulations in place in those countries.” It goes on to specify that there is a risk from non-EU countries – China and the US in particular – demanding access to potentially sensitive or strategic data from telecoms operators. Hence the need to classify the types of data that can be held by a non-EU provider through a public cloud and “which data instead will need to be managed by a cloud provider that meets specific security requirements in order to reduce the risk that the data may be accessible to non-EU governments.”

There is already interest in the project from within Italy, with incumbent telco TIM having been widely reported as intending to take part in the tender to build the cloud hub.

“We are working with a group of companies that will form a new company,” Italian business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore reported TIM chief executive Luigi Gubitosi as saying, earlier this week, ahead of Colao’s announcement.

The initiative is backed by state-owned lender and TIM shareholder Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), he added, and the group also includes defence group Leonardo and Sogei, the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s technology arm. The same names have been bandied about by the media all summer, but Gubitosi’s confirmation comes as the project actually gets underway.

According to Colao’s roadmap, phase one of the cloud strategy, which is the publication of the call for tenders to implement the hub, will come by the end of 2021 at the latest. The government aims to award the tender next year, with the migration of public authorities to the hub to begin at the end of 2022 and run until the end of 2025.

There may well be other names in the frame in the coming weeks, but, given the way the drive for national telecoms infrastructure has panned out in Italy in recent months and years, it’s hard to see past TIM and its associates as the operator of the country’s cloud hub.

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