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Italy says bids for national cloud hub expected this month

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By Reuters
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CERNOBBIO, Italy – Italy expects to receive bids by the end of September from companies interested in building a national cloud hub, a 900-million-euro project to upgrade the country’s data storage facilities, a government minister said on Saturday.

Part of EU-funded projects to help Italy’s economy recover from the pandemic, the cloud hub initiative reflects European efforts to make the 27-member bloc less dependent on large overseas tech companies for cloud services.

“I’m confident we will receive some expressions of interest by the end of the month,” Innovation Minister Vittorio Colao, a former head of telecom giant Vodafone, told reporters during an annual business conference in Cernobbio on Lake Como.

“Technological independence of Europe is important because it allows the bloc to negotiate (with foreign partners) on an equal footing,” Colao said, adding he had discussed the issue with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire at the conference.

In the Recovery Plan sent to Brussels in April to access EU funds, Rome earmarked 900 million euros for the cloud hub project, according to sources and documents seen by Reuters.

Sources told Reuters in June that Italian state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti was considering an alliance with Telecom Italia and defence group Leonardo in the race to create the cloud hub.

U.S. tech giants such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon, which dominate the data storage industry, could provide their cloud technology to the cloud hub, if licensed to companies taking part in the hub project, officials have said.

Such a structure would be aimed at soothing concerns over the risk of U.S. surveillance in the wake of the adoption of the U.S. CLOUD Act of 2018, which can require U.S-based tech firms to provide data to Washington even if it is stored abroad.