Microsoft has today announced a $1 billion digital investment plan in Poland, which includes its first data centre in the region providing cloud services to business and government. The project will be Poland’s largest ever IT investment, reports Wprost.

The American software giant has signed a strategic partnership with Chmura Krajowa (National Cloud), an organisation formed in 2018 by the Polish Development Fund (PFR) and PKO BP, Poland’s largest bank, to speed up digitalisation of businesses and public administration.

The seven-year public-private partnership will support the “Polish Digital Valley” and span sectors including government, health, education, manufacturing, retail, energy, finance and insurance.

The new data centre, Microsoft’s first such project in Central and Eastern Europe, will likely be based in Warsaw or on the outskirts of the capital, reports Wprost.

Poland has sought to position itself as a regional centre for technology in recent years. Last year, Google also announced plans to open a cloud hub in Poland serving the CEE region, also in partnership with the PFR and PKO BP.

“Our primary goal is to accelerate Poland’s transformation into a technological hub for the region of Central and Eastern Europe,” said Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, quoted by Microsoft in its press release.

The US ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, also hailed the new investment, saying that it “will position Poland as a global player in the digital market”.

Currently, only 11% of enterprises (firms with 10 employees or more) in Poland use cloud computing services. In the EU, only Romania (10%) and Bulgaria (8%) have lower figures. The EU average stands at 24%, according to Eurostat’s 2018 data, the latest year on record.

Microsoft is planning to train an estimated 150,000 Polish professionals, educators and students in cloud-based technology and digital competencies. The program will include e-learning programs, workshops and hackathons around topics such as: cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data.

“I deeply believe that Microsoft’s investment in Poland will be important for enterprises, public institutions and the education system and will enable them to digitally transform and implement new work standards,” Morawiecki was cited as saying.

Following today’s announcement, Mosbacher also noted that the new data centre will ensure the  “highest standards of cyber security and will be ready for 5G”. Last year, during a visit to Warsaw, US Vice President Mike Pence signed an agreement with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda on joint cooperation in tightening guidelines on 5G network security.

Microsoft boast a “nearly 30-year track record of working successfully with Polish organisations and businesses of all sizes” as well as “a network of more than 6,000 local partners,” as outlined in today’s statement. The company currently has 59 “cloud regions”, with Microsoft Azure cloud services available in over 140 countries.

Main image credits: Guntars Mednis/Wikimedia (under Wikimedia commons license)

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