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Rethinking the SDIA: Regional Cloud & IT Infrastructure

Evaluating the SDIA to become an association working on regional sustainability.

Max Schulze
Max Schulze
4 min read
Rethinking the SDIA: Regional Cloud & IT Infrastructure
Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash

Table of Contents

During the course of 2023, we reevaluated various strategic directions for the SDIA. One of them was to turn it into an association focused entirely on advocating for regional digital infrastructure; a topic we still believe in, yet we could not see how to finance the nonprofit from small & local actors alone. Regionality became a key tenant of our think tank as it stands now, but a dedicated organization for this topic was not possible at the time. To see behind my thinking back then, I am publishing some of my notes here.

Why does this need to exist?

During our event in Düsseldorf, it became clear that there is a gap in the understanding of civil society, businesses, and politics on what is driving digitalization. Yes, digital technology plays a part, but ultimately it is regional IT service providers who are helping people, government, and companies to transform, implement digital technologies, and digitalize. It is not the Cloud or Software-as-a-Service, it is people.

It’s been clear to the SDIA that sustainable digital infrastructure is regional - decentralized, resilient, and integrated into the local energy system. Regional IT infrastructure can outperform environmental, economic, and societal performance indicators, creates local jobs and tax revenues, and enables the sovereignty of a regional digital ecosystem. It’s also faster in enabling a digital transformation, as there is already trust, local knowledge, and language, instead of a globalized, top-down approach.

Yet there is one challenge that emerges: The lack of representation and awareness of the digital sector. In the European context, the industry associations of the digital realm are dominated by large, international technology, telecommunications, and real estate companies (Digital Europe, EUDCA). In the national and regional context, the same is true (BITKOM, DDA, Eco, GDA, etc.) as many of them are ambushed by large corporations to set and dominate an agenda that benefits the expansion of their global infrastructure paradigm, which discards regionality as “inefficient”. Some local cooperatives are forming in a few countries, for example, the ECHO eG to bring together IT service providers to do combined purchasing to remain competitive.

The Voice of Regional IT Infrastructure

The SDIA has already published numerous policy and opinion pieces on the future of European cloud infrastructure, how to build a European cloud platform from a decentral, regional, and locally-owned network of cloud service providers, and why sovereignty can not just be limited to data, but must be applied to infrastructure.

From the beginning, the SDIA has represented, small and medium-sized (SME) actors who are locally or family-owned and who have strong ties into their regions. Most of them already are innovative and have better social and environmental performance. However, they are struggling to compete in a market where large cloud service and data center providers are using their might to dominate at all costs. A global digital infrastructure oligopoly, to the SDIA, is not economically sustainable nor desirable and is already leading to a lack of competition.

The SDIA has already identified key strategic pillars to shift the market: transparency on environmental and social performance as a differentiation, energy integration & refurbished equipment to drive environmental and price performance, as well as regulation to create fair market conditions.

To execute this strategy, the SDIA is now repositioning itself, embracing its role as an association that represents regional IT infrastructure and service providers, empowering them to shape and create sustainable European digital infrastructure.

Value Proposition

Raising awareness for regional actors as the driving force of the digital transformation in Europe

Raising awareness of the importance and value created by regional actors is paramount.

  • Educating policymakers and governments on the role of regional IT service providers in the digital transformation of local industries, job creation, education, and impact on the local economy.
  • Raising awareness to buy regional IT infrastructure and the long-term value as well as the sustainability impact for companies
  • Differentiating regional actors through transparency and sustainability and creating awareness in society of the role IT providers are playing in shaping a digital future of the region

Creating a competitive market environment - a level playing field - for regional actors

The list of anti-competitive practices by large international Cloud and IT Technology companies is long and many of the impacts are felt among the IT infrastructure community. In the last decade, the response was to adapt. However, the market is reaching a level of concentration - of power, capital, and market share - that makes competition on a regional and national level increasingly difficult.

  • Creating actionable policy recommendations and advice and supporting regional, national, and European governments to implement effective policies
  • Co-creating positions and responses to proposed policy from a regional and national IT provider perspective
  • Driving a shift in procurement toward regional, sustainable IT infrastructure
  • Participating and representing regional IT infrastructure and service providers in political and public debate

A Roadmap towards long-term Sustainability of Regional IT Infrastructure & Service Providers

Many IT service providers are already implementing measures that reduce their environmental and social impact, engage in the local community, and practice long-term thinking. Yet there is more to do. The SDIA provides a practical roadmap, guidelines, and actionable solutions to address a long-term roadmap to enable a digital infrastructure that has no negative impact on the local environment and can enable a sustainable digital transformation and digital economy.

A Community of Action towards resilient, sustainable, and regional European cloud infrastructure

Pre-competitive partnerships have emerged as a powerful collaboration model for forward-thinking companies looking to address systemic challenges. Now it is time for regional IT service and infrastructure providers to come together across nations and regions and collaborate towards a strong, regional IT sector that can form a sovereign European foundational digital infrastructure.

The SDIA facilitates this pre-competitive community through events, online platforms, and workshops to define common agendas, identify key policy and awareness issues, and take collaborative action.

A shared technology, financing, and knowledge repository

Since its foundation, the SDIA has developed a vast repository of knowledge and identified key technologies, business models, and solutions that have already been co-created by many regional actors. Further national governments have funded the development of initiatives such as the Sovereign Cloud Stack (SCS) and Public Spaces initiatives that support the development and progress of independent regional cloud platforms.

The SDIA provides a knowledge repository and platform that gives regional actors a knowledge advantage on technology, sustainability, and policy.

Further, the SDIA facilitates and co-creates new financing mechanisms with governments and private capital to facilitate the expansion and competitiveness of regional IT service and infrastructure providers.



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