What is Gaia-X?
The point of departure for Gaia-X is the increasing challenge for businesses to keep up with the dynamics of digitalization in all areas of the economy while remaining competitive. On the one hand, control over data is often lost when they are processed by other organizations. On the other hand, the opportunity to participate in new business models and innovations is hampered by the current monopoly structures on the global digital market. These along with other concerns pertaining to data security and the enforceability of European laws and regulations represent a recognized fundamental threat to data autonomy and value creation within the economic space of the EU. The project Gaia-X addresses this challenge by establishing a framework in which all involved organizations from the various sectors can agree on a uniform ruleset, thereby ensuring that essential values are upheld and observed: data sovereignty, data privacy, confidentiality, security, technology neutrality, and interoperability.
The goal of the Gaia-X project is to allow organizations, businesses, and users to process and exchange data efficiently and economically while still maintaining control over them – not only in terms of where those data are stored but also in terms of who may use them for which purposes. Gaia-X is therefore neither a new European data centre nor a new cloud service.
The Gaia-X project was originally initiated by the German Ministry for Economic Affairs, but in the meantime has become a broad initiative promoted by stakeholders in multiple EU Member States. Its organization comprises three fundamental pillars: the Gaia-X Association at the EU level, the national Gaia-X Hubs in the EU Member States and beyond, and the Gaia-X Community.
Gaia-X was established as a not-for-profit association in Brussels under the name Gaia-X Association internationale sans but lucratif (AISBL) and currently has around 340 members (as of 06/2022).
Gaia-X Hubs are the central, country-specific contact points for businesses, stakeholders, initiatives, industry associations, and public institutions. Their task is to ensure the implementation of the Gaia-X strategy in the member states and to help projects initiated by the local industry achieve success. Gaia-X Hubs currently exist in the majority of EU countries as well as in several countries outside the EU.
The Gaia-X Community encompasses all organizations interested in Gaia-X or involved in the Gaia-X AISBL or one of the Gaia-X Hubs as members.
In order to realize the principles and values of Gaia-X, appropriate software components referred to as Gaia-X Federation Services (GXFS) are currently being developed under the coordination of the Gaia-X Association. Their purpose is to allow organizations to exchange data with one another while maintaining control over their use. Examples of specific GXFS are the identification of participating organizations, the presentation of available data services, automated monitoring of the observation of Gaia-X rules, or notarial services for the preparation of contracts.
The Gaia-X Association publishes all GXFS specifications and makes the entire software code available to everyone via open source: industrial enterprises, SMEs, start-ups, research facilities, public administration organizations, developers, and IT and cloud service functions. All of these stakeholders can present their products and services, exchange data, and jointly develop innovative business models on the basis of the Gaia-X principles and with the help of the GXFS.
The Gaia-X project is intended to promote innovation in all economic sectors and mitigate the increasing dependence on a handful of monopolistic organizations. While Europe may have already lost the race for dominance on the cloud infrastructure market, the cards for dealing in data are only just now being shuffled.
Gaia-X provides a framework embracing fundamental European principles: sovereignty, openness, fairness, security, and trust. It will therefore serve not just a scant few major players but instead allow countless companies and organizations worldwide to participate in the digital market more easily.