The NSA leaks by whistleblower Edward Snowden will go down in the history books as a heroic or reckless (depending on what camp you're in) example of press freedom and the public's right to know.
Even more so, it will act as a landmark moment when the masses finally realised the dark consequences of the celebrated digital age; that their personal information is available to people who they may or may not think have their best interests at heart.
Whilst the global debate has been much an ethical one up to now — albeit with the word 'terrorism' batted around a lot — a new report from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) has highlighted the potentially drastic financial implications of the fiasco.
Taking the main hit in the report is the US cloud computing industry, which the ITIF believes could lose between $22 and $35 billion over the next three years. Forrester Research took a much broader view and estimated a maximum loss of $180 billion.
These grim projections are a direct result of the NSA's PRISM programme, an "immediate and lasting" problem that will grow even larger "if foreign customers decide the risks of storing data with a US company outweigh the benefits", the ITIF report claimed.
In recent years, cloud services have emerged as the next generation of IT platform. As organisations look for more cost-efficient and productive ways to store data and support functions, the cloud has materialised to be one of the more revolutionary, not to mention lucrative, products of the Internet.
To date, it has been the US who has taken the lion's share of this new global market. The ITIF reports that $13.5 billion in investments was pumped into US cloud computing companies in 2011 alone, with nearly half of that coming from overseas. Today, about half of all spending on cloud services comes from US sources, with the remainder originating from the non-US market.
If these reports are to believed, there is an awful lot of business up for grabs, especially considering the cloud is still in the very early stages of adoption when compared to the huge scope of CIOs who freely admit that cloud is indeed the future of their organisation's IT, but not quite yet.
That is certainly a description that can be applied to Middle East CIOs, who have so far largely cited security concerns as holding them back from entrusting their data with a cloud company. The NSA debacle could just be the tip of the iceberg for completely disregarding American cloud vendors.
At the same time as all of this, the number of cloud offerings from regional companies is ever-increasing, giving Middle East enterprises the opportunity to store their data with a local company they already trust, and without the headache of their data ever having to cross borders.
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