There are moments in time when leaders put stakes in the ground that define the future for decades to come. Today, as the European Union is working to deliver a green and digital recovery, I believe we are at another crucial milestone.

Laying the foundations of Europe’s digital future

The pandemic has shown us what can be done digitally must be done digitally, but it can’t happen at the cost of security and privacy.

We know data is central to digitisation so it’s important to put strong foundations in place now to make sure we secure data, extract its value safely, and address privacy challenges.

With GDPR, the EU led the way in showing that privacy can be good for business as well as citizens. The European Gaia-X initiative is another major step that sees leaders from government, business and science coming together to develop a federated ecosystem of cloud, data services and data spaces, elevating Europeans’ rights and interests in line with GDPR.

A partnership of shared values

In the words of Gaia-X CEO, Francesco Bonfiglio: “Gaia-X is driven by the purpose of creating an open and trusted digital ecosystem that enables the success of European companies in a global digital economy. For that, we collaborate with organisations who share our vision, values and principles and bring along their innovation, ideas and expertise. We are pleased to have Cisco as a member since day one, supporting our endeavour.”

Cisco is proud to be part of the Gaia-X journey, driven by transparency, privacy, inter-operability and open standards: values we very much share. Transparency, trust and accountability are at the heart of our business. This translates into how we handle data, how we report on demands for data, how we communicate vulnerabilities and how we run our Security and Trust Office.

For us, privacy is more than a compliance obligation – it’s a human right and a business imperative. It’s why our own business model is about protecting customers’ data, not monetising it.

Through initiatives such as Gaia-X, our aim is to actively and positively contribute to Europe’s digital transformation and address the challenges it brings about. We hear and respect the expectations of customers and policy makers around security, privacy and data residency which is why we integrate security and privacy from the earliest stages of product development, making sure they are built in by design, not bolted on later.

Exceptional user experiences without compromise

Digitisation is all about the user experience but it’s important that those experiences don’t compromise data privacy and security.

A few weeks ago, I shared how we are offering EU data residency to Webex customers in Europe. Cisco is also one of the first companies to adhere to the EU Code of Conduct for Cloud Providers – the first official EU code  approved under GDPR by all European Data Protection Authorities.

In a broader sense, as a cloud-neutral technology company, we’re in a strong position to help solve the cloud puzzle: supporting where the apps are built and hosted, and how people connect to those apps for a seamless digital experience.

With Gaia-X, Europe also wants to foster innovation and commerce, with plans to build data spaces and solutions to securely share and use data between businesses and sectors. Cisco is working to build the technology frameworks needed to deliver trusted digital solutions. We’ll also contribute technologies that help better secure data and power greater privacy.

Teaching the skills needed for the digital future

Making Europe’s digital future a reality will take more than secure connectivity and technology. We need people with the relevant skills to thrive in the digital world and build a more inclusive society. Yet, the latest EU data shows that 42% of citizens don’t have basic digital skills and we lack skilled workers in all sectors of the economy where digital has a role.

For over two decades, the Cisco Networking Academy has been training students in essential IT and networking skills. Our e-learning platform has provided more than 2 million people in Europe with education and job opportunities in IT and beyond.

Now, we need to help train the digital workers of the future, teaching them essential skills in IT and the technologies that power cybersecurity, privacy, AI, IoT, cloud, hybrid work, remote education, healthcare and more.

We all know there’s work to be done as Europe embarks on the journey of a green and digital transformation. With initiatives like Gaia-X laying the foundations, I’m confident we’ll get there.



Wendy Mars

Senior Vice President

President - Cisco EMEA